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Despite its athletic name, people who do not play tennis can get tennis elbow. It is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in the elbow are overworked by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Considering that playing tennis involves constant repetitive motion of the wrists and arms, it comes as no surprise that tennis players are prone to issues in their elbows. Painters, plumbers, carpenters and butchers also do repetitive motions during their daily routine, and they are prone to the same elbow issues.


Tennis elbow versus carpal tunnel

People experiencing carpal tunnel can also experience pain in the elbow if their injury is severe enough. Sometimes the line between carpal tunnel and tennis elbow can become blurred. Like carpal tunnel, elbow issues can cause a nagging pain that moves up and down your arm and into your hand. Sometimes a few of your fingers go numb at once, and sometimes your whole hand goes numb. The major difference between carpal tunnel and tennis elbow is the location of the pain in the elbow. Pain will primarily occur where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the outside of the elbow. Many times this bony bump will feel swollen or inflamed. If the inflammation is severe enough, it can spread the pain into the forearm and wrist. This can be where the issue is confused with carpal tunnel. Careful evaluation of the area should enable your doctor to determine if you have tennis elbow or carpal tunnel.


What causes tennis elbow?

Since tennis elbow is named after the sport, playing too much tennis can cause you to develop the issue. Tennis calls for repetitive motion of your forearms. Overuse and muscle strain are the leading causes of the issue. Repeated motions and stress to the tissue in the arms can result in a series of tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony bump at the outside of the elbow. Playing tennis without properly stretching or warming up beforehand also makes your tendons prone to injury.
However, you do not have to be a tennis player to experience these elbow injuries. Painters constantly stroking their brushes and rollers back and forth on walls and ceilings will experience the same repetitive motion elbow issues. Chefs who tend to do a lot of chopping will suffer from the same issues. Cutting meat can be one of the toughest jobs a chef has to endure. Depending on the cut of meat the chef is required to slice and how it needs to be cooked, it can be hard to tell how difficult the cutting process will be. Chicken is an excellent meat to cut while it is partially frozen. You will not have the toughness of the meat being completely frozen solid, yet you will not have the toughness of cutting through tendons and connective tissue of meat that is fully thawed and at room temperature.
Carpenters have to drive a lot of nails and screws into walls and wood surfaces. With time, all the pounding or driving motions become repetitive, and carpenters may even find that they put too much force into their work. Before they know it, they end up with an inflamed bony bump on the end of their elbow. People who work with computers are prone to elbow issues, not just repetitive computer mouse usage. Think about it: They are behind a keyboard all day in their office, and then they go home at night to surf the internet and relax. Continuing to use a mouse like they did all day will keep aggravating the same spots over and over again. It may be beneficial for people to switch to a tablet or a different mobile device for internet usage at home. That way they can use their fingers and hands while resting their elbows more comfortably at their side.


What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

A swollen, bony bump can be found near the outside of the elbow. Usually, if the bony bump is severely swollen, you will experience a lot of pain in the elbow. The pain will eventually shoot up the arm and forearm. Sometimes the arm will begin to feel a little heavy near the elbow. You may even experience symptoms that are similar to carpal tunnel in your hand. Some or all of your fingers may become swollen and feel heavy or numb. Again, you may feel a great urge to shake out your hand to relieve the numb feeling.
Completing simple tasks using your hands almost seems impossible. Even though most of the pain is occurring at the end of your elbow, shaking hands with another person or even gripping an object becomes extremely difficult. Turning a doorknob will cause extreme pain if not done carefully and slowly. Holding a coffee cup or other heavy objects with one hand is nearly impossible, and you will feel the urge to drop them in a matter of seconds. No one should hand you anything valuable that is heavy as you cannot trust the strength in your hand.


How do you treat tennis elbow?

Resting from strenuous physical activity or sporting events will give the swelling from the repetitive motion time to subside. Over-the-counter pain relievers can temporarily mask the pain, but within four to six hours you will be reaching for more. Anti-inflammatory medicines work the best to relieve the pain and swelling. Icing the area while you are resting is the best solution to help bring down the swelling. Compression of the injured area may also prove to be beneficial; however, you need to be very careful when selecting the compression support. Elbow supports come in a few sizes. If you buy a size too small, you will feel too restricted while going about your daily activities. You could also be cutting off the circulation to the area without even knowing it. Buying a wrist support a size too small can cause more damage to the injured area. If you buy an elbow support that is a size too big, chances are you are not compressing anything in the injured area. It is just like wearing a bandage to cover a wound, but there will be no support. The right size elbow support will compress the injured area enough to stop the pain and prevent further injury.
If none of the suggested home remedies help you find relief, your doctor may suggest corrective surgery. There can be an extended recovery period during which your physical activity is limited. You may not be able to drive for a few days or even a week. Physical therapy may be suggested a few weeks after the surgery to introduce strength and stability back into the affected areas.