Tennis elbow is a common injury but, despite the name, it is not just caused by playing tennis. It can be caused by any repetitive action of the arm and can be defined as a form of tendonitis. However, you don’t have to rely on medications to manage the pain and treat the condition. There are some fantastic natural remedies that help.
Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis. It is a condition that causes pain where the tendons from the forearm muscles attach to the bony knob on the outside of the elbow (known medically as the lateral epicondyle). Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain on the outside of the elbow which can radiate into the forearm and wrist. The pain generally comes on slowly and it is made worse by the repetitive extension of the wrist or rotation of the forearm.
Tennis elbow is cause by the degeneration of the tendon fibres as the result of overusing the muscles that bend back the wrist and lift the hand. It is most common in people between 35 and 55 but it can occur in all age groups. Tennis elbow is not just caused by playing tennis but by other activities as well such as gardening, painting, using a screwdriver, etc – any activity that uses the muscles repetitively.
The RICE method for treating tennis elbow is as follows:
• Rest the injury immediately.
• Ice the area as soon as possible in order to reduce the swelling and inflammation. Never apply ice directly to the skin – cover the area with a clean cloth or towel first.
• Compress the area to limit swelling and bleeding. Do not wrap the elbow so tightly that you limit circulation to the area.
• Elevate the elbow above the heart to improve fluid drainage.
When using ice and compresses, leave them on for half an hour and remove for fifteen minutes before repeating. This will ensure that circulation is not interrupted.
Acupuncture is a popular treatment for tennis elbow. It involves the use of fine needles in order to correct the flow of qi or energy in the body. It is a painless treatment and many people find it very relaxing. For tennis elbow, acupuncture is used largely to provide pain relief. Studies have shown that acupuncture relieves tennis elbow pain for significantly longer than placebos and also an overall improvement in the level of pain felt. If you don’t like the thought of needles, laser acupuncture is an excellent alternative to traditional acupuncture.
Adequate nutrition can be helpful for preventing and easing the effects of tennis elbow. Vitamin C is vital for the repair of injuries as it speeds cellular growth and repair. Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is also important as it is needed for collagen synthesis. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that destroys free radicals that are released by inflammation in the body. Zinc is also necessary as it works with vitamin A to repair tissue and reduce inflammation. Vitamin E taken with selenium limits inflammation and speeds up healing. Add turmeric and cumin to your meals as they are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Bromelain, found in pineapples, reduces pain and swelling.
Glucosamine supplements, combined with a healthy diet, can help to rebuild damaged cartilage with side effects. As an anti-inflammatory and painkiller, it is helpful for the long term treatment of chronic tennis elbow.
The inflammation that causes pain in tennis elbow can be helped using herbal medicines. Some effective remedies include:
• St John’s Wort – soothes pain and calms the nerve.
• Fenugreek – fenugreek seeds and milk made into a paste and spread over the affected area is helpful as fenugreek is anti-inflammatory.
• Curcumin – is an extract of turmeric and is a strong anti-inflammatory and painkiller.
Homoeopathy works best when the pain of tennis elbow is acute. The follow remedies may be useful:
• Arnica – if the elbow feels sore, bruised, and inflamed from injury or overuse. The elbow is aggravated by movement and touch.
• Rhus tox – when you find it difficult to rest as it causes stiffness. It’s commonly used for tennis elbow that improves with heat and is worst upon waking.
• Ruta – for tennis elbow that is slow to heal, and the joint feels achy, weak and stiff.
The following tissue salts may be helpful:
• Ferr phos – for inflammation where heat and pain feature.
• Calc fluor – is helpful for knots, swelling or calcium deposits in the tendon.
• Silicea – is helpful for treating injuries that are slow to heal.
Physical therapists may choose to recommend a series of exercises to gradually stretch and strengthen the muscles of the arm, especially the forearm. The therapist will show you how to safely and correctly perform the exercises, and once learned, can be performed at home or at work – wherever is convenient for you.