Tennis elbow, in spite of its name, occurs in all types of people, quite often in those who have never even played the sport. It affects anyone whose job or recreational activities require a gripping while twisting repetitive motion. This might describe the movements of plumbers, painters, butchers, typists, knitters, carpenters or chefs. It might also include the sports movements in squash and fencing. In fact, utilizing a screwdriver or tightening a pipe using a wrench might be good descriptions for trying to visualize the movement.
So what is it inside the arm that leads us down the path to tennis elbow? It’s a simple concept to envision. A tendon, which is a fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone, becomes severely inflamed and has now developed what is called tendonitis. The cause is a repeated contraction of the forearm muscles used to regulate the movement of your hand and wrist. These repeated movements and stress upon the tissue result in small tears in the tendon that attach the forearm muscle to the prominent bony bump on the outer side of your elbow. The pain can also spread into the wrist and forearm.
Tennis elbow is quite complicated to heal, insofar as it has so many ways you can opt to try while having the distinction of it being one of those maladies offering the most resistance to healing. One thing is certain however, you cannot “tough it out” to make it go away, because using your arm too strenuously in this condition can impede healing and lead you toward chronic pain, making matters much worse and making healing efforts more difficult. If anything, total rest and disuse should be the first step you take, but it’s impractical to not use your arm for weeks or months while waiting for it to heal. Medications such as painkillers might serve to numb and mask the pain initially, and NSAID’s such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen often treat the pain in a similar manner, but nothing is done to relieve the actual condition. And with drugs alone, or in concert with any medications you take on a regular schedule, there’s always the risk of dangerous reactions and interactions. So if drugs won’t heal your tennis elbow, don’t take them beyond using them once if it’s safe to counteract the pain while you search for a solution. Cold applications suppress inflammation but not much more, Cortisone injections don’t always work and should only be used as a temporary measure because they might have to be repeated over time, and surgery should only be considered in rare cases and as a last resort. Aside from resting the affected arm, nothing I mentioned in this paragraph will eliminate your problem.
If your goal is to get quick relief for the pain and heal the condition for good, acupuncture has a profound affect on tennis elbow. Even the World Health Organization accepted acupuncture in 2003 as a valid treatment for this condition. One of the best ways to get this done is through “trigger point acupuncture”, a specific form of acupuncture that targets and releases the overused forearm muscles that are in spasm, in a way that causes the muscles to complete the contraction and release, thereby releasing tension on the tendon. This will rapidly speed up your recovery. In my own practice, I make it a point to explain and demonstrate to my patients the specific movements that are causing their problem so that they can avoid tennis elbow in the future and work toward a swift recovery. I will also include daily stretches in my recommendations for keeping the forearms functioning in top condition. Here’s one more note: If you happen to be suffering from golfer’s elbow, a similar condition on the inside of the elbow involving the flexor muscles of the forearm, acupuncture will also be as effective for you.
There’s never a reason to suffer in silence with any kind of condition that can be treated by acupuncture. If you’re not sure if what you have falls into that category, take the time to give your acupuncturist a call to find out how they can help. Acupuncture is used to treat many hundreds of medical conditions throughout the world and they’re here to help you with yours as well.