I don’t even play tennis!
Have you ever woken up with a sore and tender elbow, wondering what you could have done yesterday that caused it? Brushing your teeth hurts. Pulling up your pants hurt. Reaching for the remote hurts. Everything you do makes it hurt! Then come to find out you have tennis elbow, but wait, you don’t even play tennis!
Recently an unusual number of patients coming into the office have complained of a pain to the outside of their elbows. The area is often slightly inflamed. It is warm, red and tender to the touch and it is generally painful with movement. So much so, that sometimes they have described it as a sharp stabbing pain. Looks like classic symptoms of tennis elbow, but how did they get it? The culprit has been their mobile phone.
My mom always said spending too much time on the phone is bad for you and in a way, she was right!
A lot of us have been in quarantine, working from home and limited in our ability to do outdoor activities or meet up with friends and family so we are keeping up with the outside world by extensively using our iPads, mobile phones and laptops. When you use your mobile phone, an iPad, or even read a book for excessive amounts of time, the muscles to the outside of the forearm can become very tight, inflamed, and irritated just like an avid tennis player swinging a racket. More specifically, the two muscles on the outside of the forearm, extensor carpi radialis longus and extensor carpi radialis brevis.
So how did it get its name Tennis Elbow?
Pain to the outside of the elbow would often occur when avid tennis players would develop excessively tight and irritated muscles to the outside and back of their forearms. As these muscles became overworked from swinging their rackets, the muscles would start to pull away at their insertion site. This area is called the lateral epicondyle. When this area becomes inflamed, a person can develop a disorder called lateral epicondylitis or more commonly referred to as Tennis Elbow. In addition to the lateral epicondyle, the highly sensitive periosteum surrounding the epicondyle and the muscular tendons can also become irritated and very painful.
What are the signs and symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
The area can be warm, red and tender to the touch. The outside of the elbow can be dull and achy at rest, to sharp and stabbing with any kind of movement. External rotation of the wrist can increase the pain. This is a repetitive stress injury so people who use their arms a lot will be prone to developing this condition like painting and carpentry work.
How can you treat Tennis Elbow?
In addition to over-the-counter NSAIDs for inflammation and pain, ice and compression is used on the affected muscles in this area. Soft tissue mobilization and Myofascial release are reliable ways to loosen muscle fibers and to decrease irritation to the insertion points of the muscles. In addition to these techniques, patients will have to stretch the affected muscles to regain normal range of motion. The combination of softening an elongation of these muscles should remove irritation to the insertion sites. Of course, reduction of activities that irritate these muscles must be accomplished as well.
Times have changed and we use our mobile phones like miniature computers that we take everywhere.
We work from them by answering emails and having video conference meetings. During our non-working hours, we are using our phones to keep up with social media, watching movies and video chatting. So, let’s take a moment and put our phones down. Stretch out those muscles and do some helpful exercises to reduce the symptoms or prevent Tennis Elbow.
If you think you may have tennis elbow then give our office a call today at 310-451-5851 or sign up for our free online consultation!
Article written by Dr. Peter Le, D.C.