Pain in the elbow

Tennis elbow can be treated with simple measures such as ice bag, adequate rest and a slice of ginger

Playing badmintionTennis elbow is not restricted to tennis players, as the name would suggest. Anyone who regularly strains the muscles in the elbow region can show up with the problem.

The problem may be caused by other activities, such as work and hobbies that involve repetitive movements. It may also be caused when the elbow is bent while holding firmly on to something, a tool, or an instrument.

Tennis elbow, ironically, has been made famous by Indian cricket legend, Sachin Tendulkar. So discomforting was the problem that Tendulkar was forced to miss more than a handful of Test and one-day matches.

The condition, in medical parlance, is called bursitis. Bursitis is the inflammation [swelling] of a bursa. A bursa is a closed sac, or envelope. It contains a fluid, usually found or formed in areas subject to friction — e.g., over an exposed or prominent part and/or where a tendon passes over a bone.

The bursa normally contains very little fluid. It gets inflamed and filled with fluid, following an injury and/or due to overuse. It may also occur due to gout [an inflammatory disorder], rheumatoid arthritis [RA], or certain infections.

Symptoms

  • Gradually increasing pain on the outer side of the elbow
  • Pain is strongly felt when someone presses on the "affected" area
  • Bending the wrist upwards against pressure often hurts, especially around the protrusion of the bone [outer elbow]
  • Pain radiating up into the upper arm and down along the outer side of the forearm
  • Weakness in the wrist. This makes it difficult for one to do things that require power in the hand.

The problem is probably caused by the overuse of the muscles that straighten the fingers and the wrist. Pain is often intense around the said region. Besides, the pain may eventually radiate up the upper arm as well as down the outer side of the forearm.

The pain may also be caused by minute splits in the connective tissue that holds the muscles to the bone. When the tissue is irritated, inflammation sets in. This causes the swelling in the area, even when the inflammatory process often heals on its own. However, in a few cases, the pain may last for a few years. In some instances, for five years, or more.

It is reported that tennis elbow most often affects people in their 40s. Women seem to be more frequently affected than men.

Things to do

  • You can control tennis elbow pain, to begin with, by applying an ice bag wrapped in a cloth. This is done to avoid contact with the skin. The ice bag can be applied for 20 minutes, 2-3 times daily
  • The arm should be rested
  • Any movement that causes pain should be avoided
  • You may place a slice or two of the grand old kitchen remedy, ginger, in your mouth to relieve pain. Ginger is nature's very own anti-inflammatory prescription. It has been praised in ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and is now a much-established remedy, thanks to modern scientific/research studies
  • Stretching exercises can help. So, also therapies like acupuncture.

When these measures don't work, consult your doctor.

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