Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow what is it and how to treat it at home?
Oh, elbow pain. It’s the bane of many tennis and golfer’s existences, but did your know that tennis elbow and golfers elbow can happen without even playing sport? Although commonly associated with these sports, simply doing repetitive work at a computer can be enough to bring on these conditions. But fear not, my friends. There are ways to break the cycle of elbow pain, and I’m here to spill the beans on ways to do this at home with the two most common elbow conditions: tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain on the outer part of the elbow. It’s caused by repetitive motions, that involve either gripping (like gripping a tennis racket - hence where it got it’s name “tennis elbow”) or moving your fingers up and down (like typing on a keyboard). The continuous strain the forearm extensor muscles lead to small tears in the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle (the bony bump on the outside of your elbow). One of the greatest difficulties with this condition is being able to give the elbow a rest so that it has a chance to heal, as it’s difficult to go about our daily business without gripping anything. Gripping the steering wheel to drive, hold a water bottle to drink, even the act of pulling your pants up after you’ve been to the toilet….you get the picture!
Golfer’s elbow is an extremely similar condition but on the inside of the elbow instead. It is called medial epicondylitis, because it involves these micro-tears of the tendons on the common flexors of the forearm that attach to the medial epicondyle, the boney bump on the inside of the elbow. This condition is also the result of repetitive motions, but involving the muscles on the inside of the elbow, such as swinging a golf club or ulnar deviating the wrist, which is the action that occurs when we hit something with a hammer.
Both of these conditions involve pain and inflammation and micro-damage where the tendon attaches to the bone.
How to treat the pain and inflammation at home
Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow can be treated with rest, ice, and physical therapy, focused towards reducing the tension in the relevant group of forearm muscles to ease the pull on the damaged tendon. This may include massage, soft tissue therapy, dry needling and/or cupping. Another treatment that has been gaining popularity in recent years is the use of therapeutic ultrasound.
Therapeutic ultrasound is a type of physical therapy that uses high-frequency sound waves to treat pain and inflammation, and stimulates healing. The sound waves penetrate deep into the underlying tissue, with the help of the conductive gel. The high vibrational energy of these sound waves are directly transferred to the underlying tissues, promoting healing, increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation. Previously this non-invasive modality was only available via consultation with a physical therapist (Physio, Chiro or Osteo), but now you can use them in the comfort of your own home and don’t need a degree to work them safely and effectively.
What does the research say about the effectiveness of therapeutic ultrasound?
A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that therapeutic ultrasound was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with tennis elbow. The study showed that patients who received therapeutic ultrasound had significant improvements in grip strength and pain compared to those who did not receive the treatment.
Another study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery found that therapeutic ultrasound was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with golfer’s elbow. Once again the study demonstrated an improvement in pain levels and grip strength in patients receiving therapeutic ultrasound verses the control group.
So, if you’re struggling with tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, therapeutic ultrasound may be a treatment option to consider. Especially if you have a device at home, as it will save you on frequenting appointments at your physician. But, as with any medical treatment, it’s important to talk to your doctor or physical therapist if your symptoms don’t continue to improve with this at home treatment.
Addressing these torn tendons with the ultrasound can significantly speed up your recovery time, but keep in mind that healing will take place faster, if you don’t continue to aggravate the area with more repetitive use. If giving the area a rest is not an option for your recovery, due to work commitments etc. Then we need to talk about an extra strategy!
What if I can’t rest my elbow for it to recover?
We will need to incorporate a device that can help give the torn tendons a rest while you are still continuing to grip, type, play sport or use your tools. Specifically, let’s talk about the Dr Kez ChiroLab elbow brace.
The Dr Kez ChiroLab elbow brace has been specifically designed to create a temporary new anchor point for the relevant muscle we are trying to heal. Common extensors on the outside of the forearm in tennis elbow and the common flexors on the inside of the forearm for Golfers elbow. Unfortunately, many braces that are said to be for these two elbow conditions, are ineffective at providing this anchor point to give the torn area a chance to rest at the epicondyle, which is pertinent to an elbow braces success. Without reducing the strain on the tendons and muscles in the elbow, you might as well be wearing the plastic bead bracelet your child made you in kinder. The Dr Kez ChiroLab elbow brace is brace is also adjustable, so you can customise the level of compression and support to your specific needs. This is important because not only are all elbows different sizes, but everyone’s elbow pain is different and requires different levels of support.
Although you don’t hear me recommending strapping or the use of braces very often, when it comes to getting quick results with tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow it is an absolute must. If you don’t, you might as well buckle up for the ride, as the pain will go up and down like being on a roller coaster according to your level of activity from one day to the next. Wearing the brace gives the micro tears a chance to recover and prevents re-injuring the area of a daily basis.
What else can I do to help at home?
In addition to the therapeutic ultrasound treatment daily and the Dr Kez ChiroLab elbow brace, it’s important to also address the root cause of your elbow pain. If your pain is caused by repetitive motions like typing incessantly at your keyboard, it may pay to take regular breaks, or to modify your technique to prevent further aggravation and give your elbow time to heal.
Ignoring the pain and continuing to work through it will only make the injury worse and prolong your recovery time. So, don’t be stubborn, my friend, listen to your body and give it the rest and recovery it needs.
You can also do some massage work at home on the forearm muscles or use the cupping set to loosen up the muscles, to decrease the pull on the epicondyle. This will help speed up recovery by preventing the tension in these muscles from continuing to pull on the insertion point and cause further micro tears.
In conclusion, elbow pain is no joke, but with the right treatment and support, you can get back to your favourite activities pain-free. Therapeutic ultrasound is an effective treatment option for both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, and the Dr Kez ChiroLab elbow brace provides the necessary support and stability to help alleviate pain and most importantly prevent further aggravation so that you can recover faster.
Remember, don’t be afraid to seek help from a medical professional if you’re not getting the results you deserve, and definitely don’t ignore the pain. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. Now go out there and show that elbow pain who’s boss, my friend!