Lateral epicondylitis, better known as tennis elbow, is a condition that leads to pain along the outer side--or lateral side--of the arm by the elbow.1,2 It’s common in people who play racquet sports like tennis, hence the common name, but it can happen to anyone who performs repetitive motions with their arms, such as painters, carpenters, plumbers, and butchers.1 Even individuals who work on a computer all day are at risk of tennis elbow from prolonged keyboard and mouse use.2
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is caused by overuse that leads to damage of the tendons between the forearm and the elbow. In overuse injuries, small tears form in the tendon over time and eventually cause pain in the elbow, arm, and wrists.3 However, a single elbow injury, such as a direct blow, can also damage the tendons and cause tennis elbow. In some cases, the tennis elbow cause remains unknown.
Anyone can get tennis elbow, but it most commonly affects individuals in their 40s.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
Tennis elbow symptoms may include:
Individuals with tennis elbow may find that their pain interferes with everyday tasks such as gripping an object, opening a door, turning a key, shaking hands, or holding a cup of coffee.1,3
Tennis elbow is diagnosed through a physical exam. You may need an X-ray to help rule out other problems or undergo an MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis.2,3 Tennis elbow usually heals on its own and is treated through rest, over-the-counter pain medications, or herbal remedies that help in managing the pain and inflammation.5
In some cases, patients may undergo physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and tendons to aid in recovery.5 Severe cases may require surgery. Your doctor may inject various medications into the tendon; perform an ultrasonic tenotomy, which involves the use of ultrasounds and needles to help remove the damaged tissue; or suggest operative surgery performed through a large incision to remove the tissue.
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Willow bark is a natural pain reliever for tennis elbow. Willow bark can be taken in several forms, including tea or tincture. To make a willow bark tea, add 1 teaspoon of dried willow bark to 1 cup of boiling water. Let steep for 15 minutes then strain. Drink daily.
Do not take willow bark if you are also taking aspirin or blood-thinning medications
Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic that can help relieve tennis elbow symptoms. Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to 1 cup of milk. Heat mixture over low heat and add honey. Drink twice daily for a few weeks until tennis elbow is healed.
Fenugreek is a natural anti-inflammatory that can treat swelling caused by tennis elbow. It can be used as a topical treatment by grinding 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds with milk until it forms a paste consistency. Apply paste to affected area for 1-2 hours, then rinse. Repeat daily. Or take 1 teaspoon of ground fenugreek seeds with 1 glass of warm water each morning.
Vitamin C can help quicken tennis elbow healing time and reduce inflammation. Vitamin C is available as a supplement to take daily. Follow dosage instructions on the product label.
Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is a topical treatment to relieve pain and inflammation for tennis elbow. Apply DMS to affected area daily following the directions on the product label.