If you've been diagnosed with tennis elbow, or you suspect you have it, it's important to address the symptoms right away. Many doctors agree that if you can't at least reduce the symptoms within 6-12 months, surgery may be required. Whether you take OTC pain remedies or not, you can still follow these natural treatments to reduce pain and inflammation and get you back on the courts.
1. R.I.C.E. Method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
This is one of the first things you should do when you've been diagnosed or you notice pain and swelling around the elbow. Start with resting the arm by staying off the courts (or away from whatever caused your symptoms) temporarily.
Use ice compresses at least several times a day for 10-20 minutes at a time. This is most effective when you first notice swelling. After a few days, you can switch to a hot pack.
Compress the elbow with an ace bandage or other wraps recommended by your doctor.
And finally, keep your arm elevated to help reduce swelling.
2. Physical Therapy
With physical therapy, you'll learn valuable exercises that can facilitate the healing of damaged tissue. Exercises will vary with the severity of your injury, but the following are common for tennis elbow and can be performed at home:
- Place your forearm across a table, letting your hand dangle off the edge. While holding a light weight (like a can of soup), raise your hand up and down slowly to gently exercise the wrist.
- Hold the injured arm in front of you. Use your good arm to grab the fingers of your injured arm, gently pulling them back to stretch the muscles in the arm.
- Holding a tennis ball or other soft ball, gently squeeze and release the ball repeatedly to help strengthen the arm muscles.
Your physical therapist will give you specific exercises to do outside of therapy.
3. Egoscue Method
Most professionals agree that poor posture can lead to a host of pain and musculoskeletal issues. But the whole theory behind the Egoscue method supports the notion that pain, and even tennis elbow, is caused by improper form.
With the Egoscue Method, you'll learn exercises that will improve your posture and realign your body so that you use proper form while on the tennis courts. Exercises should specifically target the back, shoulder, and forearm muscles, making sure they align such that the elbow isn't strained when playing.
Both of these treatments are based on traditional Chinese medicine, and they follow the belief that applying pressure or small needles to certain "points" on the body can open up pathways between cells.
There are at least 10 different acupressure points that can help relieve pain associated with tennis elbow, and you can easily try them at home. Some points can also help relieve numbness and tingling that many patients experience.
Acupuncture, on the other hand, requires a skilled practitioner, but it can be very effective. A study done by the Mayo Clinic showed that after having acupuncture, 18 out of 22 patients experienced long-term relief from their tennis elbow symptoms. In a separate study, 22 different patients received acupuncture. After just four sessions, 19 patients were completely healed of their pain.
5. Anti-inflammatory Diet
Certain foods can help reduce inflammation while others only exacerbate your symptoms. Start by avoiding processed foods and anything high in sodium, sugar, saturated fats, and processed grains. Then make sure your diet contains plenty of the following:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Wild-caught fish
- Cage-free eggs
- Bone broth
- No sugar added coconut water
- Berries, melons, pineapple, bananas, and citrus fruits
Some of these foods are better protein choices than processed meats while others contain high levels of magnesium and potassium—minerals that are important for keeping inflammation at bay.
For more information, contact a center such as Advanced Physical Therapy.