5 Keys to Conquering Tennis Elbow

5 Keys to Conquering Tennis Elbow

Here at Nightlight Chiropractic, I’m always looking for ideas for you to keep you healthy, to keep you at the top of your game. One of the most common complaints we get here at our downtown Orlando chiropractic office is tennis elbow. Whether you’re gardening, golfing, wrapping presents, or lifting weights, if you’re getting elbow pain, I know what it is. And I’m going to show you how to fix it without ever stepping foot in any medical office, including mine.

What is Tennis Elbow?

First of all, really important, what you’re getting when you’re getting pain along the outside part of your elbow when you’re using scissors or doing some other kind of manual work, is almost inevitably tennis elbow, otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis. But when people think tennis elbow, they think, well, I don’t play tennis. How could I possibly be having tennis elbow?

When you’re getting tennis elbow from using scissors or other manual tasks to do flexion/extension of your fingers and or wrist, you’re using all of these muscles around your elbow. All of those muscles join together at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus by this common tendon called the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon.

This tendon links all of these muscles to one particular point in your elbow. It’s important to understand that when we’re getting that elbow pain, we’re creating inflammation and eventually tearing in that ECRB tendon, that extensor carpi radialis brevis. And eventually, that inflammation will cause a little bit of gap, a little bit of tearing in those collagen fibers. And then you actually have a hole. You have a hole in the tendon as it attaches to that lateral epicondyle. So what can we do about it? I’ve got your five keys to conquering tennis elbow:

Stop the Offending Motion

What are we going to do about this? How are we going to fix this? Well, first, we have to stop the offending motion. So we all know that little trick about gliding the scissors up that paper. Right? You find that sweet spot, and you glide those scissors right up there as opposed to chomp, chomp, chomping along. So that’s a good fix. But also making sure that you’re changing up how your wrist sits while you’re doing that motion. Maybe pace yourself a bit.

You want to make sure that you’re spacing the repetitive motion out as best you can. First and foremost, if you’re getting elbow pain while making a motion, you need to stop making that motion. Stopping that offending motion will make sure that we are limiting how much inflammation, swelling, and tearing happens in that area. And that’s important because even just a few minutes of making that manual motion can lead to weeks of pain.

Ice the Area

Second, we need to reduce the swelling and inflammation. One of the best things we can do is ice. Try freezing a cup of water in a paper cup. Then peel away some of the outer covering to get a nice shell shape that you can use to massage that area. And as I massage that area, I’m getting a little bit of friction to the area, which is good, but also I’m reducing the amount of swelling in the area.

Get Hot

Tennis elbow responds really well to contrasting hot and cold. So you can use a little bit of heat with a heating pad, then ice, then heat, then ice. Just make sure that you’re ending on ice to reduce that swelling.

Strap It Up

So what else can we do? We are going to use a tennis elbow strap. If you’ve never seen one of these things, you can buy these things at any drugstore. Here’s how we’re going to use it: You’re going to go one finger’s breadth below where you’re having all that pain. And then, you want to use this strap very snugly with the cushion pad right over your elbow muscles. You need to wear it snugly during all of your waking hours for about a week and a half to two weeks.

The reason is that a lot of times, you’re using your hands, and you don’t even realize you’re using your hands, from typing to a hundred other things. If you don’t have this thing on, every one of those things can exacerbate your injury. So you want to have this tennis elbow brace on the entire time you’re awake.

Get Stronger

For long-term recovery, we want to take some of the load off of that ECRB tendon. The key is to strengthen some of the other muscles in the area. And to do that, we’re going to use another common household item: a rubber band. You’re going to do combinations of your thumb and your fingers to do extension. Watch the video linked below to learn how. You don’t want to do this while you’re inflamed; it’s for after your swelling and inflammation go down. If you chronically get this tennis elbow, you want to make sure that you’re doing the strengthening exercises regularly.

So there you have it, my 5 keys to conquering tennis elbow without ever visiting a doctor or chiropractor’s office. I hope you’ve learned how to prevent this annoying injury from slowing you down and how to treat it if it does become a problem. As always, feel free to reach out for an appointment if there’s any way I can be of assistance.

About Dr. Merrill

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Dr. Andrew Merrill is a passionate active clinician and owner of Nightlight Chiropractic Orlando where him and his team treat hundreds of patients each month. With a strong background in exercise science from Stetson University, clinical skills from Palmer College of Chiropractic, and continued postdoctoral training in spinal disc injuries and clinical nutrition, Dr. Merrill is very well versed in the healthcare landscape. With topics ranging from "what to do for common ailments" to "why the medical system is failing you" Dr. Merrill and this blog in particular aim to keep readers up to date on what the research shows and how you can put it into practice NOW to keep yourself healthy for a lifetime.