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While a large percentage of tennis players suffer from tennis elbow, they only make up a small percentage of all reported cases of tennis elbow. Tennis elbow can strike anyone whose job or activity requires a repetitive motion of the wrist and forearm, including painting, plumbing, and using a hammer or screwdriver.
Sometimes confused with carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow is characterized by recurring pain, soreness, and inflammation on the outside of the upper forearm near the elbow. Gradually, the pain worsens and can start to radiate down the arm toward the wrist. Pain often occurs when squeezing, lifting, and twisting objects.
Tennis elbow is often a form of tendonitis; tiny tears in the tendon and muscle coverings cause inflammation and pinching of the radial nerve, which controls the muscles of the arm and hand. Whether afflicted with it on the tennis court or at your job, tennis elbow is a chronic condition that can sideline you for 12 to 18 months.
If professional treatment is needed, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy are both conservative and effective methods that strengthen the wrist and forearm. Additional conservative methods include heat therapy, cortisone injections, a forearm brace to alleviate the pressure on the tendons and muscles, and a splint to rest the arm. Surgery may also be necessary if nonsurgical methods do not prove to be effective.
Tips for tennis elbow prevention include:
- Take time to stretch both arms and wrists
- Use hand weights to strengthen the forearm and wrist
- Apply an ice pack to the outside of the elbow after activity