Anyone can get
Especially if you spend hours in front of the computer daily
If there was a condition that was poorly named, it would be Tennis elbow. It is a common workplace injury, with frequent computer users outnumbering tennis players, carpenters, meat packers and more by 1,000 to one.
So what is tennis elbow?
Its medical name is lateral epicondylitis and happens when you overwork the muscles and tendons connecting your outer elbow to your forearm. Tennis elbow is a repetitive strain injury (RSI).
And although using a computer keyboard isn’t particularly straining, it is highly repetitive and incredibly common—and frequent computer users are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from tennis elbow.
What it isn’t is inflammation. Tendons may get inflamed in early stages, but it isn’t the actual problem. What actually happens is connective tissue degeneration, which isn’t linked to inflammation and the main reason why tennis elbow is a chronic and not acute injury.
According to a study, “Recent basic science research suggests little or no inflammation is present in these conditions.”
Inflammation typically happens during infections or lesions. White blood cells are transported to the site, which is typical of inflammation.
In RSI cases, there are no white blood cells present. Instead the tendon tissue degenerates under stress. They become dull, disorganized, almost like scar tissue (as opposed to highly organized, bright and shiny healthy tendons).
Without the right treatment and adequate rest, tennis elbow doesn’t just go away on its own.
Are you doing these for your tennis elbow?
Anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAID (ibuprofen)
Painkillers like acetaminophen / paracetamol (Tylenol, Panadol)
Enhanced well-being and quality of life
Here’s why you should STOP doing these for tennis elbow.
Icing and NSAIDs
So using ice to treat it doesn’t really do much but numb the area. It doesn’t improve recovery or reduce inflammation—most likely there’s none!
And NSAIDs? Well, they have serious side effects such as heart attack and stroke, and are known to irritate your GI tract (aka gut burners).
Taking painkillers like Tylenol or Panadol for pain seems like the most intuitive. It might provide relief temporarily, but it’s not a great long-term solution for chronic pain. Even acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is one of the safest drugs at recommended doses, can badly hurt livers over time.
The most potent anti-inflammatory are corticosteroids. It’s a popular option and often injected for precision (oral corticosteroids have serious side effects that they are considered worse than opioids).
Steroids actually “eat” the connective tissue over time. Not like a strong acid, but it’s still a very bad side effect and can cause long-term harm.
What’s the best and safest treatment for tennis elbow?
Choosing the right treatment for tennis elbow is important. It should have these characteristics:
Heat and vibration therapy checks off all these boxes
Similar to icing, using heat is stressless tissue stimulation and thus provides pain relief. However, unlike icing, heat boosts blood circulation which increases nutrients to the elbow and helps with recovery.
Targeted vibrations also help reduce joint pain and stress by helping muscles contract and relax, creating similar effects to mild exercise without the strenuous workouts. Vibration can also improve pain, performance, flexibility and range of motion in joints.
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