By now we have all been more active, perhaps with yard work, but also with sports like golf or tennis. Overactivity often leads to repetitive motion injuries, and one of the most common is tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Prevention is always nice, so if you know you will be golfing or weed whacking more, about a month beforehand you should start doing more range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises of your upper body. If it’s too late and you already have injury what can you do about it?
Some interesting research has shown that the pain and inflammation from tennis elbow can be relieved by splinting your WRIST more than if you get a tennis elbow splint. This was a small 80 person study, so may not hold true if we checked that on say, 1000 people, but is intriguing. The tendon runs from the elbow to the wrist, so it does make sense that a splint at the end would help. It would be best to use the splint for the first week or two when you are awake and take it off at bedtime. As you feel better, just use it when you will be doing a lot of arm activity. It is important to keep using the arm and keep the muscles strong or you will just reinjure it again once you take off the splint.
People also ask about getting a steroid shot in the elbow for tendonitis. Studies do show that it helps in the short term (like for a few months) but after a year, they see more pain and reduced elbow function for people who get the steroids! So, it is only a good short-term fix and will come back to haunt you.
How about using acupuncture to help? Acupuncture was also found to lower the incidences of side effects compared with pain relievers based on a study. A Cochrane review (this is an organization that conducts large scale reviews of the scientific literature) conducted by Green et al. found that acupuncture was effective in improving the short-term pain of the lateral elbow. If you are interested in trying it, let us know here at Whole Family Medical Care and we can get you in for some acupuncture!