Tennis elbow, by definition, is a condition that causes pain in the area just outside the elbow. Contrary to popular belief, it is not unique to tennis players only, and is medically referred to as lateral epicondylitis.
This pain occurs at the point where the elbow connects to the forearm. It is in fact, related to the tendons and muscles located in the forearm. To understand how this condition develops, it is important to know what the difference between the muscles and the tendons is.
Muscles are soft tissues found in the human body. Tendons on the other hand, connect the muscle to the bones. In this regard, the overuse of the arm in repetitive routines causes a set of tendons near the elbow to get tears.These tiny tears cause inflammation in the nearby muscles, often placing stress on the forearm. This makes it very painful to lift things, and if left unchecked, may cause chronic issues arising from.
The condition gets its name from the fact that when hitting a backhand, tennis players experience some form of stress on the forearm muscles. Considering that tennis, and indeed other racquet games are made of repetitive techniques, it is easy to see how the condition got the name. Below are some simple easy home remedies that you can use to treat tennis elbow.
1. Use a Cold Compress:
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: A handful of ice cubes, a clean cloth and a pillow to rest the affected arm on.
Using a cold compress is one of the most effective ways to treat tennis elbow. This simple remedy only needs a handful of ice cubes and a clean towel to wrap them in since you should not apply the ice cubes directly on the skin. The ice reduces the intense pain in the forearm and helps to keep the swelling down. Ice is also a handy home remedy because it prevents the condition from progressing with more severe symptoms. Use the cold compress as indicated in the directions below.
NOTE: Do not place the ice cubes directly on the skin to avoid getting frost bites.
- Put the ice cubes on the towel and wrap them to create an easy-to-use pack.
- Once you have done this, place your elbow on the pillow to offer support and ease the stress on the affected arm.
- Carefully place the cold compress on the affected part of the elbow, massaging gently for some 10 minutes or until the ice starts to melt.
- Use this remedy severally during the day until the pain is dealt with completely.
2. Alternate Hydrotherapy Treatment:
Time Required: 20-30 Min
What You Need: Hot water bottle, 2 clean towels and a handful of ice cubes.
Just as the name suggests, alternate hydrotherapy treatment for tennis elbow involves providing contrast treatments to manage the condition’s symptoms. In this remedy, both cold and hot compresses are used for the varied healing properties.The hot compress is an excellent way to soothe the overused muscles while increasing blood flow to the affected arm. The cold compress on the other hand, reduces the pain and inflammation. Ice cubes are a handy way of reducing the swelling that often occurs in the affected dominant hand. Use this natural technique by following the steps indicated before.
- Prepare both compresses before-hand. Wrap the hot water bottle in a towel and set aside. Wrap the ice cubes in the second towel and place aside. This is important because it prevents skin damage that may arise from the hot water bottle or ice cubes coming in direct contact with the skin.
- Place the hot compress on the affected part of the elbow for some 2 minutes or so.
- Remove the hot compress and immediately put the cold compress in its place.
- Leave the cold compress on for about 2 minutes.
- Continue alternating the two for about 20 minutes.
- Use this remedy until you get relief from the symptoms of tennis elbow.
3. Raw Ginger:
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 5 Tablespoons of ginger (freshly grated), cotton bag and hot water to steep the ginger in. Additionally, you may prepare ginger tea using raw ginger and 1 cup of hot water.
Ginger is one of nature’s most potent home remedies for the management of conditions that cause pain and inflammation, among them tennis elbow. Ginger is effective because it has gingerols, a set of active ingredients that go a long way in providing pain relief, in effect easing the strain on the affected forearm. There are two ways to prepare ginger: either by drinking the tea or by preparing poultice by following the respective sets of directions provided below.
Preparing Ginger Tea
- Cut about an inch of raw ginger and peel before cleaning it.
- You may pound the raw garlic to increase the surface area of the active ingredients released into the tea.
- Put the ginger in 1.5 cups of water and bring the mixture to boil until you have a cup of water left.
- Strain the mixture and stir in some raw honey to act as a natural sweetener.
- Enjoy this tea at least thrice daily until the pain is effectively dealt with. Alternatively, prepare poultice for topical application as follows.
Prepare Ginger Poultice
- Take about 3 inches or raw ginger, and peel then clean before grating. Grating is preferred because it increases the surface area of the remedy’s active ingredients, and this makes the remedy more effective.
- Take 5 tablespoons of the grated ginger and place in a cotton cloth.
- Wrap the grated ginger tighty before steeping the pack in boiling hot water for a minute.
- Let the pack cool for a few minutes before placing it on the affected part of the arm.
- Use the pack to massage gently for 10-15 minutes.
- Use this remedy daily until you notice a significant improvement in the symptoms associated with tennis elbow.
4. Elbow Stretches and Exercises:
Time Required: Varies, but typically 30 Min should be sufficient.
What You Need: A comfortable place to exercise from.
It may seem contrary to the norm when dealing with the pain of a tennis elbow, but doing exercises is actually helpful when dealing with the pain from this condition. Studies show that movement of the wrist is helpful in the management of pain. This is because the exercises prevent the formation of scar tissue at the point between the elbow and the tendon, which is where the tears occur.
It is important to note that for as long as there is mobility in the arm, it is important to perform stretching and movement exercises. This is because in addition to the prevention of scar tissue, these movements break up any tissue adhesions that have already formed. The key thing when performing these exercises is to make sure that there is no over-exertion of pressure in the affected arm. Additionally, always start with gentle exercises and gradually build up on that until the pain decreases and the arm’s strength increases to its normal levels. Below are some of the exercises that you can use to help treat tennis elbow.
Exercises to Strengthen the Arm
- The eccentric wrist watch exercise involves resting the forearm on a surface so that the wrist hangs off the edge. In this exercise, the palm should be upward facing. Get a light-weight object (not more than 2 kilograms) and hold it with the affected hand. Gently drop the wrist, and once down, lift it up gently. Repeat this 10 times at least thrice daily until the symptoms of tennis elbow are completely eliminated.
- The second set of exercises involves stretching the forearm and is known as the extensor stretch. In this exercise, you need to keep the wrist of the affected hand in front of your torso, making sure it is bent. Use the unaffected arm to gently hold the fingers of the affected hand and tug. This is meant to gently stretch the forearm and help it gain strength while preventing the condition’s progression.
- The third set of exercises is known as the hand strengthener. This routine involves squeezing a ball as firmly as possible to increase strength in the affected arm. A tennis or golf ball is recommended for this exercise. Simply hold the ball with the affected hand and squeeze gently, doing so in 3-second intervals and gradually increasing the intervals until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds. As mentioned above, do not over-exert pressure on the affected arm to prevent the tissue from getting damaged.
- Use the tricep stretch to manage tennis elbow and get pain relief. Simply fold the affected arm behind your back and place some pressure on the elbow. Hold this position for half a minute. Repeat the exercise thrice daily.
5. Add Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Your Diet:
Time Required: Varies depending on the specific food.
What You Need: To increase anti-inflammatory foods in your diet
In addition to the exercises and the home remedies mentioned above, it helps to increase the amount of anti-inflammatory foods in one’s diet. The most important bit of this remedy is to ensure that you cut out processed foods as these are known to increase inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory foods on the other hand, are a great addition to your diet because they are able to repair damaged tissue and improve one’s overall health. Great food options include vegetables, fruits and foods rich in potassium and magnesium. The latter group of foods are key for optimal muscle function.
Foods to add to your diet for the natural treatment of tennis elbow
- Include green vegetables in your diet, particularly green leafy ones such as kales and spinach.
- Add pineapple because it is rich in bromelain. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme that helps degrade destroyed tissue, thus making it easy for the affected arm to heal. Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons on the other hand, are rich in Vitamin C which boosts the immune system and helps the body heal quickly.
- Foods rich in potassium and magnesium are essential to proper muscle function. These foods include bananas, sweet potatoes, coconut water and avocados.
- Prepare bone broth to increase the amount of collagen production in the body. Collagen is the protein that is responsible for forming muscle, tendons and ligaments. When it is increased, it helps repair the tissue damaged as a result of tennis elbow.
6. Massage the Affected Arm:
Time Required: At least 30 Min
What You Need: Water bath and choice essential oil.
Relieve pain and pressure in the affected arm by massaging the arm to treat tennis elbow naturally. Massage not only increases the flow of blood to the affected arm, it also soothes the muscle and releases tension in the forearm.
It is important to use an oil to massage the hand in order to prevent friction as well as the symptoms from worsening. There are several oils to choose from. Cypress essential oil for instance, enhances blood circulation while olive oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory remedy. Peppermint oil reduces the pain in the forearm and coconut oil is loved for its ability to reduce pain when applied topically. These oils must be mixed with a carrier oil to prevent skin irritation as some of them are quite strong. Some of the carrier oils recommended for this remedy include avocado oil, jojoba oil and almond oil.
- Mix 5 drops of the preferred massage oil in the carrier oil.
- Apply a generous amount of the oil mixture on the affected forearm and massage well.
- Use this remedy thrice daily until there is an improvement in the arm.
Treating tennis elbow immediately is important because it prevents the condition from progressing and causing tissue damage in the affected forearm. If the symptoms do not subside after a few days, seek medical attention. Depending on the severity of tennis elbow, your doctor will recommend different forms of treatment for speedy recovery.