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Epicondylitis can be divided into two conditions. The first is medial epicondylitis or “Golfer’s Elbow” and the second is lateral epicondylitis or “Tennis Elbow”.
Epicondylitis usually lasts between six and twelve weeks. Anyone who overuses their arms and elbows in a repetitive action in either sports or at work is susceptible to Epicondylitis.
Symptoms of Epicondylitis are muscle spasms, pain and tenderness around the joints which worsens with movement and in bed during the evening.
The first treatment to try when symptoms of Epicondylitis strike is to rest by taking a day or two off from the activity that caused the inflammation.
If the Epicondylitis is from exercise, try switching the type of exercise you are doing to one which does not require twisting of the elbows and/or arms.
Soak your elbow in a warm bathtub or whirlpool. This will raise your body temperature and increase blood flow.
Also, warming the tendons before any stressful activity will decrease pain associated with Epicondylitis.
If a bath or whirlpool is not possible, wrap the elbow in a warm, moist towel.
Place a plastic bag over the towel to hold it in place.
Then place a heating pad or hot water bottle over the plastic bag.
Leave this treatment on your elbow for two to six hours.
To avoid burns, leave the heating pad on the low setting.
After warming up your elbow tendons with warm, moist towels, try stretching before exercise or work-related activities by placing your palms against a wall and bending your arms so you are doing push up-like stretches.
Alternatively, try stretching your arms out and bending at the waist: forward, backward and side-to-side.
Try to strengthen your muscles in your arms by lifting light weights or place some pennies in a sock and use this as a weight.
However, strengthening therapy should be done after you are free of pain, and should be conducted in a very slow and progressive way.
Choose an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine like Aspirin or Ibuprofen for pain relief. This will also reduce swelling and inflammation.
Also, during work or exercise, take breaks for 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day.
Use a flexible brace around your elbows during work and exercise to relieve symptoms of Epicondylitis.
If there is any swelling which can occasionally occur, wrap the elbow with a bandage to reduce swelling.
Do not wrap too tightly or for an extended period of time. The bandage should not be uncomfortable to wear nor should it interfere with blood circulation.
After strenuous exercise or work-activity, try placing an ice pack on the elbow for 5 minutes.
Leave the ice pack off for 60 minutes and repeat as often as possible. After two days, apply warm, moist heat.
Also, elevate the elbow to reduce swelling and pain.
Between 90% and 95% of patients with symptoms of Epicondylitis respond to conservative treatments and do not require surgical intervention but you need to get the condition treated by a doctor.
For severe Epicondylitis both corticosteroid and autologous blood injections can be an effective form of treatment.
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Tim Allardyce DO MCSP SRP
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