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Getting the Bend on the Mend: Treating Tennis Elbow


If your favorite sport involves a swing, you may want to brace yourself for the inevitable: Tendonitis of the elbow, or tennis elbow.

It’s an ache sometimes described as nagging or throbbing, and it’ll keep you off the court or the golf course (if it’s the links you like), so you’ll want to get it looked at by your health professional.


Tennis elbow is inflammation of the tendons, which is the connective tissue between muscles and bones, says Lindsey Mathews in an article for

“Acute inflammation is a natural, normal process in our bodies,” Mathews says. “Our bodies innately know what to do to heal themselves.

Symptoms of acute inflammation response may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Warmth

"This inflammation response is supposed to be fast and direct, not extended," Mathews says. "It is when this inflammation response becomes chronic, or even systemic, that it is difficult to manage.” 


Because tendonitis is generally caused by overuse, it goes by such names as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow or swimmer’s shoulder, according to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center website. Athletes with improper technique are particularly vulnerable to suffer the effects of inflammation from overuse. 

Tendonitis can usually be diagnosed during a physical exam, says Cedars-Sinai, and because tendons are soft tissues, not bones, X-rays aren't usually helpful. If a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis is suspected, however, a doctor may order a blood test.


When a patient has had pain at the end of the elbow, the knobby part that’s the area of the condyle, for more than four weeks, chiropractic treatment is probably in order, says Mathews. Tennis elbow, or acute lateral epicondylitis, needs measures to reduce inflammation, such as applying ice to the area 7-9 minutes at a time, multiple times a day. It’s also imperative to modify any workout plans. Mathews says pull-ups and kettle bell swings are out. 

If you have chronic epicondylitis, she suggests more serious intervention.

“Get yourself chiropractic, plus soft tissue treatment three times a week,” Mathews says. “If you have a chiropractor and a massage therapist, use them both. Perform shoulder mobility and thoracic mobility regularly.”

Even more importantly, individuals can make lifestyle choices to effect change. Many professionals are advising patients to decrease overall inflammation in their bodies through changes in diet.

“I find that chronic, lingering injuries in our life are usually our bodies’ way of trying to tell us something,” Mathews says. “The elbow joint is flexible in all ways except backwards, so there could be something in your life hindering your progression forward professionally, athletically, emotionally, or spiritually.”

Even something simple, like gardening, can cause a flare-up of tendonitis, especially if you have a history of pain from inflammation of the joints. But the odds that you’ll be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t get sidelined really depends on which sports are your racket.


IMG_0978 by Marianne Bevis is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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