Tennis elbow is a type of tendonitis. It’s characterized by pain in the elbow, forearm, and sometimes in the neck and shoulder area. And don’t be fooled by the name; you don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow.
This type of tendonitis affects the lateral epicondyle tendon that attaches to the outside of the elbow. Most people who get tennis elbow don’t actually play tennis. Instead, those who perform repetitive motions with the hands and arms usually develop the injury. Luckily, chiropractic care continues to help people find quick and effective relief.
Short Term and Long Term Outlook
For most people, tennis elbow will go away with proper home care. However, the average time it takes for the injury to heal without professional care, such as a licensed chiropractor, can be as long as 12 weeks. In some cases, tennis elbow doesn’t go away unless the underlying cause is addressed. However, there are some things you can do in the short-term to find relief.
Short Term Tennis Elbow Relief
Those looking for short-term relief can rest easy. Most of the time, following the RICE system will provide some relief. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
- Rest – Avoid using the affected arm and hand as much as possible.
- Ice – Place ice bags or freezer packs on the painful area for a max of 20-minutes at a time, every 2 to 3 hours. Be sure to place a cloth or rag between the ice and your skin to avoid skin damage by the extreme cold.
- Compression – You can purchase a compression sleeve at most drug stores, or you can use a wrap around the elbow (not too tight) to help keep the inflammation down and provide some relief.
- Elevation – If possible, elevate your affected arm over your heart. This will help prevent swelling and inflammation.
Long Term Tennis Elbow Relief
Pretty much anyone can facilitate short-term relief for tennis elbow. Long-term relief depends on taking the proper steps to heal the injury and prevent it from happening again. This is best done with the help of a chiropractor.
Can a Chiropractor Help With Tennis Elbow?
When considering treatment for tennis elbow, you may be wondering what exactly a chiropractor is. After all, chiropractic care is most known among most people for help with back pain. So, you could be wondering if a back specialist is the right choice for your elbow pain. The truth is that chiropractors specialize in treating the entire musculoskeletal system. Anything that has to do with joints, muscles, bones, and ligaments is well within a chiropractor’s wheelhouse.
In short, chiropractors can absolutely help with tennis elbow. In fact, chiropractic care may be more effective than the normal treatments offered by a physician, which typically include NSAIDs and rest.
The Chiropractic Approach to Treating Tennis Elbow
Chiropractors treat tennis elbow in a number of ways. But before they ever start treatment, they need to examine the patient to make sure it is, in fact, tennis elbow and not some other issue causing the pain. Sometimes an infection in the joint can cause similar symptoms. This is why a doctor of chiropractic will do a thorough examination and assessment of the patient before proceeding with treatment.
Once tennis elbow has been diagnosed as the issue, the doctor of chiropractic will likely assign the patient some variation of the RICE system outlined above in order to reduce swelling and pain. Whether the chiropractor moves on to the conservative treatment options on the patient’s first visit depends on the severity of the injury, the pain level, and how swollen and irritated the area is.
Before the chiropractor can begin proper treatment, the swelling and pain need to recede. Only then can the doctor of chiropractic begin treatments such as elbow adjustments.
Chiropractic Elbow Adjustment
Not every case of tennis elbow requires an elbow adjustment. However, in some cases, a misalignment of the elbow joint could be causing certain muscles in the arm to compensate for that misalignment. This can cause tennis elbow, particularly when that arm or hand performs repetitive motions regularly.
If an elbow adjustment is required, the chiropractor will perform it using one or more adjustment techniques. How many times you’ll need to visit a chiropractor for adjustments depends entirely on how your tennis elbow reacts to the treatment. However, many people find significant relief after one or two sessions.
Elbow adjustments are only one part of chiropractic treatment for tennis elbow. There are also other techniques that focus on the soft tissue, such as Active Release Techniques, which have proven effective in treating tennis elbow. Some other treatment options chiropractors often utilize include:
- Massage – Great for relaxing strained muscles, breaking up scar tissue, and promoting healing through enhanced blood flow to the area.
- Stretches and Exercises – There are many specific stretches and exercises that focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles and tendons of the arm and elbow. These are often given as homework to the patients.
- Physical Therapy – In addition to stretching exercises, some physical therapy may be useful in restoring strength and promoting proper movement so the issue doesn’t return.
Spinal Adjustments for Tennis Elbow?
Many people are surprised to find that their chiropractor may want to perform spinal adjustments on them in order to help with tennis elbow. It’s natural to be skeptical of this, but the fact is that problems in the extremities often originate in the spine.
Tennis elbow is often accompanied by neck pain, but even when it’s not, there could be a misalignment of the spine causing miscommunication down the nerves of the arm.
One study showed a connection between elbow pain and cervical pain, which is why a chiropractor may want to perform spinal manipulation to help your elbow pain.
Tennis Elbow: Chiropractor or Physiotherapy?
One common question people have about tennis elbow regards whether they should seek chiropractic care or physical therapy. The truth is that both can help relieve and prevent tennis elbow. But the good news is that you don’t have to choose. You can benefit from both in the same place.
Since chiropractic care and physical therapy work in similar ways and deal with similar injuries, it makes sense that it’s becoming more and more common to see chiropractic offices with physical therapists on-staff or in the same building.
Chiropractic care is often performed first to help heal and restore proper movement to the elbow. Sometimes during the healing process, some physical therapy modalities are used. Then, physical therapists come in to help restore strength and to further help with proper movement and prevention.