Playing sports keeps you healthy, but the repetitive stress of your sport can also result in musculoskeletal damage. That’s the case with tennis elbow, a repetitive stress sports injury medically known as lateral epicondylitis.
Tennis elbow affects the tendons in your forearm, and it can develop from any activity that involves gripping and twisting movements in your hand and arm. Without the right approach to managing tennis elbow, this type of sports injury can linger, or even progress, turning more serious.
At the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, hand and wrist expert Dr. Michael L. Blackwell advises patients on how to handle tennis elbow. He provides sports medicine care from locations in Tomball, Kingwood, and The Woodlands, Texas.
Here are five strategies Dr. Blackwell recommends for managing your tennis elbow on your own.
When you start to notice tennis elbow symptoms like pain in your arm or tenderness around your elbow, it’s time to take a break from repetitive activity. Give your arm two weeks of rest to see if your tennis elbow symptoms subside.
If repetitive movements are part of your daily personal or professional life, you may benefit from occupational therapy, which helps you learn different ways to take pressure off your arm.
2. Over-the-counter pain medication
If you need pain relief for tennis elbow, over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen provide effective results.
If your tennis elbow grows significantly advanced, you may need more intensive solutions for pain. Dr. Blackwell can prescribe pain medications, and he may also recommend a targeted injection for pain relief.
3. Ice and heat therapy
You can do a lot to soothe and support your arm with just heat and cold!
Ice packs reduce pain and inflammation. Use icing therapy for 10-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Make sure you’re not harming your skin by checking on your sensation levels, and if needed, wrapping your ice pack in a towel.
Heat packs or wraps can also help to manage tennis elbow at home.
Dr. Blackwell may recommend that you give your arm a break for a while by using a supportive brace. With pressure taken off your affected tendons and strain reduced around your elbow, healing can occur more rapidly.
Bracing also helps you to continue to use your arm without additional pain or complications.
5. Targeted stretches and exercises
Specific stretches and exercises help to rehabilitate tennis elbow.
Starting by bending the elbow at a right angle, reach your hand out with the palm facing up. Gradually turn your wrist until the palm of your hand is facing down. Hold the downward-facing position for five seconds, and repeat this exercise. Dr. Blackwell often suggests two sets of 10 repetitions.
You can also use a weighted wrist turn to address tennis elbow. Do the above exercise as directed while gripping a light weight.
Loosely roll up a towel lengthwise. Hold the rolled towel with one hand at each end. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, move your hands in opposite directions, twisting the towel the same way you would to wring out water.
Repeat this motion 10 times, then switch to repeat 10 more times while twisting in the reverse direction.
With these at-home stretches and other approaches, you can support your arms and reduce symptoms of tennis elbow.
For help managing tennis elbow, contact Dr. Blackwell at the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine today. Call now to schedule, or book your appointment online.