My doctor diagnosed me with “lateral epicondylitis”. What exactly is this?
Lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow” is an inflammation of the origin that attaches muscle to bone in the elbow. Inflammation is a combination of excessive heat and fluid. Tennis elbow is the result of overuse that can occur in activities from as vigorous as tennis to activities as seemingly harmless as keyboard typing or using a mouse.
My doctor instructed me to perform ice and friction massage on my elbow. What does this accomplish?
Ice and friction massage are used to decrease inflammation and promote healing of inflamed tendons. Ice constricts surface blood vessels, whereas friction massage dilates these same vessels. Alternating these two treatments stimulates circulation in the injured area, theoretically improving the removal of waste products and introducing nutrient and oxygen rich blood, which will both catalyze the healing process.
What is the best way to do ice and friction massage?
For effective ice treatments, freeze water in paper cups or frozen juice cans. Rub the ice in a circular motion over the sore area. The initial cold feeling will be replaced by a burning sensation followed by achiness and finally numbness. After the area is numb, begin the friction massage. Using the pad of your thumb or index finger and rubbing the sore area in linear. Start with relatively light pressure and gradually increase that pressure until sensation returns to the affected area. Alternate the ice and friction massage for about 15-20 minutes always ending with ice. This whole process should be repeated 2-3 times a day.
When can I begin exercising my arm?
Start exercises when you have been pain free for at least a week. Do your exercises daily and apply ice for 20 minutes following each session. As far as specific exercises are concerned, wrist curls and reverse wrist curls can be performed with can goods, weights, or even surgical tubing obtained from your doctor or pharmacist. Perform 2 sets of 20-30 repetitions. Gripping exercises with the use of a tennis ball or putty can be added but these exercises should be limited to 20-30 repetitions total.
Are there any stretches I can do?
Stretches are probably even more important to do than the above described exercises. To begin, hold your hand back with your arm fully extended and keep it in this position for 4-6 seconds. Repeat this 4-6 times. Next, hold your hand down with your arm fully extended for 4-6 seconds and, again, repeat this 4-6 times.
How long does it take for tennis elbow to heal?
It can take as long as 6 weeks for tennis elbow to heal depending on several factors including the severity of the case and patient compliance to doctor’s orders. Ice, massage, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, and injections usually speed up the healing process. Although “tennis elbow” is the most common and well-known symptomatic condition of the elbow, there are numerous other elbow conditions that can be successfully diagnosed and treated. Among these conditions are athletic injuries, arthritis, nerve problems of the upper extremity, stiff or painful elbows, and traumatic injuries.
For more information on the Elbow:
- Biceps Tendinitis
- Osteoarthritis of the Elbow
- Broken Arm
- Radial Head Fractures
- Dislocated Elbow
- Rupture of the Biceps Tendon at the Elbow
- Elbow (Olecranon) Bursitis
- Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
- Elbow Fractures in Children
- Throwing Injuries in the Elbow
- Forearm Fractures in Children
- Ulnar Nerve Entrapment
- Olecranon (Elbow) Fractures