Why Chiropractic Care & PEMF Therapy Are A Great Choice For Tennis Elbow
“Why does my arm hurt when I turn a door knob?” “If I sit at a computer all day will it cause any damage?” or "How is the pain in my elbow starting to cause a problem in my wrist?”
These are some of the questions that I get asked by my patients when they present with one of the more common arm injuries in the world today. Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is the meaner twin of its counterpart Golfer’s elbow. The condition of tennis elbow is much more common and can be caused by a number of factors. We will take a look at some of the reasons that people get tennis elbow as well as ways to diagnose and treat it early before it becomes a bigger problem.
We start with the anatomy of the elbow to give a more detailed look at what is involved with tennis elbow. The area of the elbow is a combination of three bones: the humerus (upper arm), the radius and the ulna. In the condition of tennis elbow, the radius or more specifically the radial head is the main problem or more specifically the muscles that attach to it. These are known as extensor muscles which allow the wrist to bend toward the body and inward.
The most affected of all of the muscles is the extensor carpi radialis brevis. It extends from the radial head to the wrist and becomes irritated and inflamed when tennis elbow is diagnosed. So, tennis elbow is classified as a muscle strain or contraction type injury and can be caused by a number of different factors.
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What Are The Causes & Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow?
Even though it is referred to as tennis elbow this type of injury does not only affect tennis players. Most people assume that the action of constantly rotating the arm or overusing the elbow with the sport of tennis is the only way that you can obtain the condition. This could not be further from the truth. Most of the people that I have seen in clinic merely obtained the injury with too much time at the computer. Even activities such as gardening, cooking and painting can cause tennis elbow. It is an overuse injury that can lead to tiny tears in the muscles of the forearm.
The main symptoms of tennis elbow is tenderness and pain in the muscles of the forearm. These sensations can start in the outside of the elbow and extend all the way down to the hand and wrist. Activities such as shaking hands, grasping objects and simply holding a cup of coffee can be painful for people with tennis elbow. If the pain persists for long enough the muscles of the forearm will continue to weaken if no rest is given to the area.
How Is Tennis Elbow Diagnosed?
A proper consultation and exam is usually enough information to effectively diagnose the condition of tennis elbow. In some cases where there is a bad fall on an outstretched hand and a fracture or ligament tear is possible then a CT scan or a MRI may be warranted.
Some medical doctors will also conduct a EMG (electromyelogram) in the event that the muscle is too weak and gains enough information from the study to properly determine which muscles of the forearm are affected. X-rays are not warranted with tennis elbow because soft tissues like muscle cannot be seen other than possible edema or swelling.
What Are Treatments For Tennis Elbow?
Rest of refraining from activity that first caused the overuse injury is very important. If the event that caused the injury is not altered then tennis elbow can become a chronic issue. Ice is helpful in reducing the swelling of the muscles in the forearm. In the initial stages it is a good idea to use ice every 1-2 hours for 15 minutes on the affected area. Compression and stabilization of the elbow can be helpful as well. Applying kinesiotape or wearing a small sleeve/brace are the easier ways to help keep the elbow joint more secure.
Chiropractic adjustments to the radial head (top of the radius) as well as the wrist joint are very effective in accelerating the healing process with tennis elbow. Most times the overuse that created the injury was first caused by limited motion of the radius that eventually caused muscle strain. The constant extension of the wrist with activity or excessive mouse clicking on the computer can also create mobility issues for the bones in the wrist. This is why the pain can sometimes travel all the way to the hand if it is not treated or if activity is not altered. A proper adjustment can help as well as allow for better grip strength. Following an adjustment, muscle stimulation is applied to help control pain and irritation. This will allow the muscles a chance to relax after the adjustment and allow the adjust to better hold its position.
PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) therapy is very effective with tennis elbow because it allows the cells deep within the body to recharge from the injury. Pain and inflammation will cause the energy within the cells to be at a lower state which slows the healing process. PEMF can be applied to the affected to allow the cells to come to a higher energy to accelerate the body’s ability to heal. Multiple sessions are necessary in order to obtain the best results with this type of therapy.
Physical therapy exercises are also necessary to help correct weakening of the muscles in the forearm as well as stretching the imbalanced muscles that are tight. These exercises would need to be performed daily in the beginning stages to assure the best results.
The typical timeframe to heal from tennis elbow can range from 6 weeks to 3 months. Sometimes the symptoms can persist for a long time because the activity level that initially caused the condition is not changed. If the elbow does not heal from coservative treatment then additional testing by an orthopedist is necessary to help rule out possible ligament damage from chronic overuse where surgery, corticosteroid injections or extensive physical therapy are the main options.
Will Taking Anti-Inflammatories Help?
Most general practitioners and orthopedists will recommend taking a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) medication as the initial treatment to help reduce pain. This medication can be effective in the initial stages but it does not correct the underlying cause or prevent future episodes.
Getting a thorough examination and a plan to help heal the soft tissues associated with the injury is the best way to get rid of the problem. Depending on a medication to fix the problem is not a long-term solution.
Don't continue to suffer with Tennis Elbow and allow it to affect your daily activities.
Let CORE Chiropractic help you get back on track with personalized chiropractic care, stretching & exercise recommendations, PEMF therapy and a custom treatment plan. Call today for your consultation, or schedule an appointment online.