You cannot reach for a juice box or a cold beer at arm’s length. And even when you can reach it, you can’t pick it up without experiencing intense pain in your elbow and forearm.
What’s even worse is, you seem to have lost the ability to grip objects. Like a devolving ape losing your opposable thumb all over again.
What you are experiencing is not a stroke. Relax…it is not that serious. What you have is a fairly common condition known as Tennis Elbow.
But how could you have ‘Tennis’ Elbow? You don’t even like the sport!
Heck, the closest you have gotten to it was in high school when you were still trying to find yourself or impress a girl/boy you liked.
Here’s a fun fact for you. Stress on your forearm and elbow develops over time and you don’t need to have ever picked up a racket in your life for it to develop. Shocking right?
But like always, I got you, my dear Oliviarites. Today, we shall educate ourselves on this ‘overuse injury’ and the steps we can take to contain the symptoms and avoid it in the days to come.
What Is Tennis Elbow?
Health experts call this pain lateral epicondylitis. But this is a mouthful, so I shall stick to tennis elbow.
Though the term has gained popularity, only a handful of persons diagnosed with the condition develop it from playing tennis. Tennis elbow is a fairly common injury. Luckily, it heals without major treatment. However, you have to allow the affected limb some resting time.
The pain experienced in tennis elbow is focused on the point where the elbow joins with the forearm. The injury is related to tendons and muscles in the forearm.
Tendons are the tiny inelastic strands of tissue that attach muscles to bone. When you put your arm to constant use through repetitive motion (not necessarily playing tennis or badminton), the tendons at the end of the elbow may develop some tears.
The tears will in turn cause pressure and stress on your arm. The end result is pain when you try lifting and gripping objects. Tennis elbow is not a chronic condition per se, but it can develop into one if left untreated for long.
Here are some statistics to munch on. Tennis elbow only affects 3% of individuals in the world. Most of these persons are aged between 30 and 50 years. Of the reported cases, less than 5% are related to tennis.
Causes Of Tennis Elbow
Since tennis elbow is an overuse condition, the list of its causes is as long the number of activities people participate in, and that involves the repeated use of the muscles connecting the elbow and the forearm. With that, I will start listing the causes from the obvious ones to the ‘not-so-obvious’ ones.
Playing racket games like tennis, squash, badminton, and table tennis
In these sports, the strokes made involve the forearm muscles (especially the backhand strokes). Players with poor technique and a bad racket grip will exert undue stress on their tendons leading to tiny tears.
The more you play these games, the higher your chances are of developing tennis elbow. Additionally, golfers have a version of this condition – they call it golfer’s elbow.
Not warming up before strenuous activities
Unfortunately, the kind of lives that most Oliviarites lead leaves them with minimal time to indulge in physical fitness activities. On face value, it is understandable how one would lack time to hit the gym or at the very least complete a light indoor workout session.
But if you ask me, we are just lazy. I know that sounds harsh but it’s true. We all have 24 hours to work daily. But how do some start-up business owners (arguably, the busiest business persons around), manage to hit the gym?
Simple, they want to and are passionate about their well-being. Anyway, you are not here for a physical fitness pep talk so I’ll drop it.
When you decide to get physical, whether it is hitting the gym, participating in an afternoon game with your friends or just a run to clear your head, ensure you stretch and warm up first.
The purpose of warming up and stretching is to make muscles pliable and little less prone to damage. Failure to do so increases the risk of tearing tissues and developing tennis elbow.
Using the wrong sports equipment
It is important to get the right sports equipment. When playing tennis, ensure it is just the right size and weight for you. To get the best quality, be prepared to spend a reasonable amount of cash.
Let’s take tennis for instance. A heavy/imbalanced racket will stress your muscles and cause them to tear. Choose a racket that is light, and has just the right tension for your player level.
Direct elbow trauma
Yes, this is also a cause. This happens a lot too often than we care to admit. Usually, trauma is caused by hitting the elbow on the edge of the table or taking a fall and landing on your elbow. The pain is sharp (though short-lived).
Working in repetitive industries – such industries include bricklaying, clothing construction, assembly line production, and plumbing, playing instrumental music or intense computer work.
You might be used to the physicality of your job, but the activities take a toll on your arm. If you work in the above industries, it would do you good to have regular massages to relax the muscles and to accelerate the healing process of the torn tendons.
Some activities are repetitive. They involve a lot of wrists and arm movement. Such activities/hobbies include casting lines when out fishing, paddling a canoe or boat, or the overhand tossing of balls, stones and other objects of significant weight.
Some antibiotics including Fluoroquinolones, Levofloxacin, and Ciprofloxacin also increase the risk of sustaining workout injuries including tennis elbow. These medicines will prevent some cells from replicating and repairing after sustaining damage.
As such, it goes without saying that the more one exercises when using these drugs the higher the chance of developing tennis elbow.
Compared to non-smokers, smokers are at a higher risk of developing tennis elbow. Nicotine in cigarettes affects the muscles. It causes them to lose elasticity and weakens them.
Eventually, the tendons tear and unfortunately, since the muscles cells are already damaged, the repairing process is slower – it takes ages for torn tendons to heal (for smokers).
Individuals suffering from diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are prone to develop this pain over time.
I have to throw this in. With age comes wisdom (though not all old people are wise. Some are even shallow). But also, with age comes a gradual reduction in the efficiency of the immune system and all body organs.
When one is young, he/she can pull some incredible stunts with his/her body. The sky is the limit when one is young and fit. However, the body gradually becomes rigid and prone to injury.
Strenuous and repetitive activities and movements respectively increase the chances of developing tennis elbow.
While these factors may increase one’s risk of developing tennis elbow, for some, the condition develops for no reason. For others still, those you would expect to develop it, never do.
Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is characterized by recurring pain on the outside of the forearm (upper forearm). This is the space below the elbow’s bend. However, pain may also be experienced a little further down the arm – closer to the wrist.
Pain is felt when one tries to bend or lift the arm. Pain is also felt when one performs basic actions like gripping small items, writing, and typing. When you twist the forearm the pain felt will be sharp. This means that turning doorknobs will be a problem.
Below is a list of the symptoms:
- Elbow pain that worsens when holding or grasping an object
- Sore forearm muscles
- Morning stiffness of the affected elbow and persistent aching
- The outside of the elbow is tender and sensitive
Variations Of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow does not always affect the elbow. It can affect any moving part with tendons. Of course, when it affects any other body part, it is given another name. Below are some tennis elbow (tendonitis) variations.
Individuals feel pain on the inner side of the elbow. The pain is also referred to as baseball elbow/suitcase elbow. The affected area features tendons that attach surrounding muscles to your medial epicondyle. This part is involved in heavy lifting and swinging a golf club or baseball bat/ball.
Affecting the Shoulder
This is a variation of tennis elbow that affects many people. Health experts refer to it as the rotator cuff tendonitis. I prefer calling it the swimmer’s/pitcher’s/tennis shoulder.
This condition develops over time when an individual repeatedly moves their arm over their head. The repeated movement causes the rotator’s cuff to get inflamed.
The rotator’s cuff is a set of muscles designed to control shoulder movement. The muscle is made up of the subscapularis, the infraspinatus and the supraspinatus tendons. Individuals prone to this pain are tennis and baseball players, carpenters, welders, and swimmers.
Affecting the knee
This condition is popular as jumper’s knee. The pain attacks the patellar tendon located on the lower side of your kneecap.
In addition, it affects the quadriceps tendons located at the top of the kneecap. The pain is a version of tennis elbow and thus develops following muscle overuse. This mostly affects basketball players.
Affecting the wrist
This pain is felt at the thumb base and the back of the wrist. It often manifests as De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. The pain develops as a result of continuous grasping and pinching. Some women get it during pregnancy without reason.
Affecting the Achilles
The Achilles tendon is a muscle at the back of one’s foot. The tendon is attached to the bone forming the heel. Jumpers and runners are the common culprits of this pain. Additionally, individuals who love wearing shoes that fit poorly, or that have backs that dig into this tendon are most likely to develop this condition and pain. However, at times the pain is often related to reactive arthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Diagnosing And Treating Tennis Elbow
To diagnose the condition, doctors conduct physical exams. During the exam, he/she may apply pressure on the affected elbow or request you to move your fingers, wrist, and elbow.
In most cases, the medical history you provide along with the physical exam will be sufficient to diagnose tennis elbow. However, if the doctor suspects an underlying condition causing the manifesting symptoms, he/she will suggest an x-ray or other imaging tests that may be best.
Usually, the condition will get better without treatment. However, if self-care measures and pain medications are not helping your case, your doctor may recommend therapy or in severe cases, surgery.
If the pain is associated with playing tennis, health experts may recommend an evaluation of your tennis backhand technique. If the pain is work-related, they may recommend finding better ways of completing tasks and reducing stress on the affected elbow.
When working with a physical therapist, you will be taught exercises that will gradually strengthen and stretch the tendons.
Injections – your doctor may suggest injecting plasma rich in platelets into the affected tendon. Botox along with other irritants may prove helpful as well in relieving pain from the tendon.
Ultrasonic tenotomy – this procedure is rather scary in theory. It sounds like something you would come across in a 2060 based Sci-Fi movie.
The procedure involves the doctor inserting a special needle directly into your damaged tendon. Using ultrasonic energy, the needle vibrates so fast that the targeted tissue liquefies! Once this happens, it is sucked out.
If the symptoms experienced have not improved after 12 months following non-invasive treatments, you may undergo a surgery to extract the affected tissue. The surgery can be completed through a single large incision or several tiny incisions.
How Do You Treat Tennis Elbow Using Essential Oils
Some of the above-mentioned treatment options require significant lifestyle change or the way in which you carry out a particular movement. Worst case scenario – you may have to undergo surgery or undergo physical therapy.
Luckily, there is yet another treatment option to explore. Essential oils have been in use for centuries and show great promise to conditions like tennis elbow. Certain essential oils will help ease the pain experienced and hasten the healing process. Below are some of the best essential oils to reduce inflammation and take away your tennis elbow pain.
Due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, wintergreen is an excellent and efficient essential oil in dealing with muscle discomfort and soreness. Additionally, it works to alleviate pain in muscle tissues.
Being rich in methyl salicylate, it acts as cortisone and helps reduce tendon inflammation and accelerate the healing process.
2. Sweet Marjoram
Sweet marjoram essential oil is perfect for muscle spasms and joint pain and stiffness. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it reduces inflammation and relieves pain fast.
When applied on a painful elbow, it relieves the muscle pain as well as its tenderness. The beauty of this essential oil is that it can assist in cases of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis pain.
Lavender is probably the most popular essential oil in the world due to its aromatherapeutic benefits. It has been in use for centuries for calming and relaxation as well as to relieve migraines and headaches.
Studies conducted in 2015 reveal that lavender oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and therefore is effective in accelerating the repair of broken tendons when applied topically.
Peppermint essential oil has antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties which work wonders in reducing inflammation and easing arthritis. It works best when used for a deep massage aromatherapy.
Due to its menthol content, peppermint oil is cooling and refreshing when applied to the affected elbow and relaxes the tensed muscles.
5. German Chamomile
This essential oil is popular for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving qualities. It also contains compounds that are great for the skin which is important when tending to joint injuries.
Other essential oils that you can use for tennis elbow include black pepper, clary sage, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, ginger, helichrysum, juniper, lemongrass and rosemary.
Recommended Natural Product For Tennis Elbow
If you have pain in the bony area on the outside of your elbow or pain into the upper or lower arm, you are most likely experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow.
L’orpur pain relief proprietary blend can certainly assist with this painful condition. Not convinced, read more about it here…
6 Best Essential Oil Recipes / Blends For Tennis Elbow
Recipe 1: Tennis Elbow Massage Blend
- Rosemary – 6 drops
- Peppermint – 4 drops
- Ginger – 8 drops
- Eucalyptus – 7 drops
- Sunflower oil (carrier oil) – 1.5 oz. (45ml)
How to prepare and use:
If you are not the type to walk into a massage parlor and enjoy a relaxing massage, then you can have your friend or partner massage this blend on your affected elbow. You can use this massage blend on the affected elbow twice a day.
Preparing this blend will take 5 minutes tops (assuming you already have all ingredients). Simply mix all ingredients in a dark glass bottle and massage it on the affected elbow. You can also massage the blend on your neck, shoulder, or knee if you experience pain.
Recipe 2: Muscle Soother Blend
- Juniper – 2 drops
- Peppermint – 5 drops
- Wintergreen – 7 drops
- Lemongrass – 4 drops
- Sweet almond oil (carrier oil) – 1 oz. (30ml)
How to prepare and use:
When you misuse or overuse a particular body part, at some point it will throw a tantrum. These tantrums are very often painful. Though the pain that results from the ‘body tantrum’ is gradual, it almost always catches us by surprise.
If you are not a fan of taking OTC drugs, this blend will work wonders for you. The blend includes peppermint, wintergreen, and lemongrass which are excellent pain-relievers. Individually they are potent but together they pack an even greater punch.
To prepare this blend, mix the ingredients in a dark bottle (should be a glass bottle) and massage it on the sore and painful tendon.
Recipe 3: Joint Inflammation Relief Formula
- Frankincense – 6 drops
- Rosemary – 5 drops
- German Chamomile – 3 drops
- Birch – 4 drops
- Peppermint – 3 drops
- Coconut oil (carrier oil) – 1 oz. (30ml)
How to prepare and use:
Getting the inflammation down should be the first step when dealing with tennis elbow. After this, you can start working on reducing the pain.
Mix the ingredients in a roller ball dark glass bottle. Fill up the essential oil mix with sweet almond as carrier oil. Once the blend is ready, roll it on the inflamed tendon. Note that applying pressure on the area will be extra painful but it needs to be done. If you can’t do it yourself get someone to help.
Recipe 4: Sore Muscle Balm
What you need:
- Beeswax – 1 oz.
- Sweet almond – 2 oz.
- Cinnamon, peppermint, rosemary, camphor, eucalyptus, and ginger – 5 drops
- Clary sage, lavender, black pepper – 2 drops
How to prepare and use:
This blend will soothe your sore muscles, reduce inflammation and also increase blood circulation to accelerate healing. Camphor is readily absorbed into the body and cinnamon has therapeutic properties. Rosemary reduces muscle pain and ginger improves circulation.
Melt the wax and pour in the sweet almond oil. Once slightly cooled, add in the essential oils in the ratios recommended. Mix the above in a dark glass jar. Once done, allow it to cool. You can rub the balm on your sore elbow 2-3 times daily basis.
Recipe 5: Sore Elbow Soak
- Lavender – 3 drops
- Juniper – 3 drops
- Peppermint – 2 drops
- Black pepper – 2 drops
- Epsom salts – 1 cup
How to prepare and use:
Though the soreness is on your elbow muscle, who says you cannot use a bath to relieve the soreness. It might be a bit much but the results will be promising. Prepare a bath with the above ingredients, soak in the water and while in it, use it to massage the sore elbow tendons.
Fill your tub with water. Pour the Epsom salts into a non-reactive bowl and then add the remaining ingredients dropwise. Stir with every drop added. Once all ingredients are mixed, pour the mixture into your tub. Disperse the blend in the water and soak for 30 minutes as you gently massage your sore tendons.
Recipe 6: Tendon Repair Blend
- Clove – 2 drops
- Cypress – 3 drops
- Wintergreen – 5 drop
- Helichrysum – 7 drop
- Sweet Marjoram – 4 drops
- Carrier oil – 1 oz.
How to prepare and use:
What a lovely combination. This blend will solve your tendon problems associated with tennis elbow and get you on the road to fast recovery. Mix the above ingredients in a dark glass jar and apply on the affected areas.
Repetitive strenuous activities can lead to pain of the involved muscles over time. While there are a number of ways to avoid this from happening, when it does happen, use the blends recommended above – thank me later.
Trust me, how do you think the old elbows feel after chalking up this entire segment for you guys? I’m way past tennis elbow now…I’m now faced with tennis fingers