In the course of our lives, we experience setbacks that often threaten to derail our progress and demotivate us. If you have a high-risk job (e.g., law enforcement, military, stunts person), you are more likely to get injured than people in low-risk jobs. This is a fact you just have to live with.
Many times, our occupations expose us to injuries ranging from mild to severe. The International Labor Organization (ILO) concurs that millions of people develop work-related injuries annually. But we still have to work to live, don't we?
Some injuries and diseases may be costly to treat, so natural supplements are becoming popular options for managing health conditions. In recent years, cannabidiol—aka CBD—has become one of the most sought-after natural supplements, and for good reason.
This cannabinoid compound from the cannabis plant has remarkable properties that can impact health and overall wellbeing. Though research is ongoing, there is mounting evidence that CBD has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotective, and analgesicm properties.
CBD is what you would ideally consider to help manage the pain if you have tennis elbow.
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a condition characterized by pain around the elbow caused by overuse. It affects people across the divide but is more common among persons aged 30-50.
People with jobs that involve repetitive motion of the arms and wrist are more likely to develop the condition.
So, if you're a plumber, painter, carpenter, butcher, or a tennis, badminton, or squash player, you are more likely to get tennis elbow. In fact, 50% of tennis players get tennis elbow, so the name is actually eponymous.
Clinical studies show that tennis elbow is often the result of damage to a specific forearm muscle known as the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB). The ECRB primarily stabilizes the wrists when the elbow straightens (which happens a lot when hitting the groundstroke in tennis).
As the elbow repeatedly bends and straightens, the ECRB muscle rubs against the humerus's bony bumps (lateral epicondyle), incurring microscopic tears. This causes pain and inflammation.
The ECRB muscle is prone to damage because it stretches over the humerus.
Lateral epicondylitis can also happen without any repetitive injury. In this case, it is referred to as idiopathic lateral epicondylitis.
What are the signs and symptoms of tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is a chronic injury, meaning it develops gradually.
In most cases, the pain starts mildly and worsens with time. It is pain that sneaks up on you slowly until you can no longer work normally. The pain may extend to the lower forearm rendering the arm unusable.
The common signs and symptoms of lateral epicondylitis are:
- Weak gripping strength
- Pain on the outer parts of the elbow
- Pain when bending or lifting the arm
The dominant arm is usually affected, but lateral epicondylitis on both arms is not uncommon.
How do you diagnose tennis elbow?
Worsening pain even after a few days' rest means a visit to the doctor, where many factors are considered during diagnosis.
Your GP will mostly inquire about the type of work you do (i.e., occupational risk factors) or games you engage in. After that, physical tests to determine the exact location of the pain may be conducted.
For example, the doctor may want you to straighten your arms and wrists to check if it's painful. Positive test results may suggest the muscle is not okay. While at it, inform the GP if you've had nerve disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
The doctor can recommend further tests to rule out other probable causes of tennis elbow. These include:
- X-rays – to get a clear image of the bones. X-rays are normally done when arthritis is considered a potential cause of the problem.
- Electromyography (EMG) – the doctor can perform an EMG test to rule out nerve diseases such as nerve compression. The elbow area has many nerves, and conditions like nerve compression often exhibit similar symptoms.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this test is used to get an image of soft body tissues like tendons and muscles. Besides ruling out other possible causes, an MRI scan shows the degree of damage in the muscle or tendon.
Conditions such as a herniated disk can also cause pain in the arm. So the doctor can perform an MRI scan of the neck to determine if this is the cause.
How to avoid getting tennis elbow
Preventing tennis elbow is easier said than done, especially if it's occupation-based. We suppose you won't stop hitting groundstrokes or painting if that's what gets your bills paid.
However, you can take certain measures to minimize the chances of getting tennis elbow. These largely depend on context.
How to avoid tennis elbow when lifting weights
Here is how to prevent tennis elbow if you're into weightlifting:
- Stretch – if what you do puts a lot of strain on your arms, you can prep the arms by stretching and twisting the forearms and wrists to relax the muscles.
- Distribute the strain – if possible, shift some of the strain to the upper arms and shoulder to relieve stress from the lower arm.
- In sports where the arms "do the talking" like weightlifting, warm-ups and stretches can be of great help. These relax the muscles, making them less susceptible to injury.
- Avoid sharp, jerky movements (clean and jerk); instead, go for smooth movements.
How to avoid tennis elbow while playing tennis
Tennis is a popular sport, and the likelihood of developing tennis elbow should not stop you from doing what you love. So, here is how you can protect your arms.
- Work with your coach to develop better ball-striking techniques to avoid aggravating the ECRB muscle. For example, use a two-handed backhand instead of the groundstroke.
- Use a tennis elbow split when using your arm to reduce damage to the tendons. A GP should be able to advise on the ideal type of splint or brace to use.
How to avoid tennis elbow at work
You've got to work to pay those bills, but your health is equally important. If you're worried about getting tennis elbow, here are measures to prevent it.
- Avoid working with bent arms. You can discuss rotating jobs or changing workstations to reduce strain on the arms.
- Jobs like typing often mean keeping your elbows at an angle for long periods, so taking breaks to stretch your arms can help prevent tennis elbow.
- Don't use your lower arm more than the upper arm. If possible, spread the load to the upper shoulders, where the muscles are much stronger.
- Use tools that won't increase the strain on the elbow. For instance, use a padded hammer to reduce shock to the arm. Similarly, don't grip tools too tightly as this increases tension on your wrists.
You can also integrate tennis elbow exercises into your fitness regimen to strengthen your muscles. Here are a few examples you can start with:
- Finger stretch
- Wrist flexor stretch
- Extensor strengthening
There is much more you can do to prevent tennis elbow. Even simply avoiding repeated bad hand movements can help.
What is the best treatment for tennis elbow
Generally, tennis elbow heals on its own, of course, if you stop doing what caused it. Ninety percent (90%) of cases typically resolve in 6-24 months without any medication and depending on the severity of the condition.
Simple treatments like a cold compress against the elbow for a few minutes daily work fine for mild pain. Your GP may also prescribe topical NSAIDs to apply to the affected elbow.
These are often preferred over anti-inflammatory tablets because they reduce pain and inflammation without any side effects.
In more severe cases, physiotherapy can be recommended. Manipulating and massaging the injured elbow can help reduce pain and stiffness and improve your arm's range of movement.
While undergoing physiotherapy, it helps to use strappings, support bandages, braces, and splints to minimize damage to the affected elbow.
You can also opt for shockwave therapy. This non-invasive treatment passes high-energy shockwaves through the skin to reduce pain and enhance movement in the injured elbow. The severity of the tennis elbow determines the number of shockwave sessions you'll have.
Even though this treatment model is considered safe, it is noted to have minor side effects like pain, discomfort, and bruising of the skin.
Further, its effectiveness is still a subject of research because it has been noted not to work for some people.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment is another option for treating tennis elbow. PRP injections speed up the healing process by introducing more platelets to the affected area.
The procedure takes roughly 30 minutes. However, its long-term effectiveness remains unknown.
If your condition does not improve within 6-12 months, you may consider surgery as a last resort. Surgery aims to remove the damaged tendons and allow the elbow to move more freely.
There are two types of surgery for tennis elbow – open surgery and arthroscopy.
These are same-day procedures; you go home the same day of the operation. But as with all surgical operations, there are risks. The most common are:
- Loss of flexibility and strength
- Damage to nerves and blood vessels
- Longer rehabilitation (4-6 months)
- Need for more surgeries due to severe pain, persistent swelling, and fever
Despite these risks, tennis elbow surgeries are successful in 80-90% of patients. You should be back to work in 6-12 weeks, but you may have to make adjustments, such as not lifting heavy objects.
Athletes will wait much longer (4-6 months) before playing again.
Best way to treat tennis elbow at home
You can also treat tennis elbow at home using a multi-modal approach that includes rest, painkillers, ice, and a revised technique.
It seems simple, but it's quite effective. It prevents further damage to the elbow, especially when it's inflamed and irritating.
As long as you avoid straining the affected arm, you may still carry on with routine activities, albeit gently and slowly.
Icing the injured elbow can help reduce pain and inflammation. The ice minimizes blood flow to the affected area and reduces swelling.
Wrap the ice in a cloth or towel before applying it to the affected area. Naked ice can 'burn' the skin and worsen the tennis elbow.
Keep the ice pack on the affected elbow for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times daily. Frozen peas also work fine if you don't have ice.
The RICE technique is a popular remedy for muscle injuries like tennis elbow. We've discussed the use of rest and ice. Now let's focus on C and E – Compression and Elevation.
Compression helps reduce muscle fatigue. You achieve this by tightly wrapping a compression bandage around the affected elbow. You should ensure that the color and skin temperature of the lower arm is similar to the rest of the arm or the other arm.
Remove the bandage immediately if the lower part of the affected arm becomes cooler than the upper part.
Elevation refers to gentle stretching exercises intended to strengthen the affected elbow and get it back to optimal functioning. With tennis elbow, you can implement a raft of exercises to regain muscle function.
For example, with your arm extended straight in front of you and palm pulled back in a 'STOP' motion posture, pull back your fingers for 15-20 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
You can also do the opposite stretch. Keep your arms straight by your sides, palms facing inwards. Gently push your entire arm inwards as if trying to squash yourself. Hold for 15-20 seconds at maximum pressure, then repeat 2-3 times.
Get a trainer to help you do these exercises correctly.
Over-The-Counter (OTC) pain killers
OTC NSAIDs like ibuprofen can provide relief against pain and reduce inflammation. However, they may have unwanted side effects like nausea, so follow prescription instructions.
Brace your elbow
Brace the affected arm to give it more support and reduce pain. Talk to a physical therapist to advise on the right brace and how to use it properly.
Other arm support products like kinesiology tape (KT tape) could be better because they don't limit movement like braces.
Adjust your technique
This is important to prevent reoccurrence. If you know why you developed tennis elbow, improvise new techniques.
For example, if your playing technique is the reason for the tennis elbow, you should use a different technique, change how you hold the equipment, or use lighter equipment.
Best CBD for tennis elbow
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Best CBD cream for tennis elbow
CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory and painkiller. So it can offer relief against tennis elbow pain and inflammation.
Our Relief Cream has CBD and potent botanicals to eliminate aches and pains quickly. For best results, apply it to the affected area 3-4 times daily or as needed.