Tennis elbow may sound sports-specific, but it's familiar to many, even those who've never played tennis. Each year, 7 out of every 1000 Australians experience this condition. And while athletes or tennis players might be the obvious candidates, routine activities can also contribute to this pervasive pain.
With technological advancements and medical research, solutions like the TENS machine are emerging as popular remedies. But before we delve into the advantages of a TENS machine for tennis elbow, it's vital to understand what tennis elbow is.
What Is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, results from repetitive strain injuries. These injuries can cause minor tears in the tendons that connect with the forearm muscles to the elbow. Given the prevalence of this condition, TENS treatment for lateral epicondylitis has emerged as a promising therapeutic option.
This continuous stress and the consequent inflammation lead to pain and tenderness around the elbow joint. While it's commonly associated with racket sports, it can develop from repeated gripping activities, especially those involving wrist movements.
What Are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
While sounding singular, tennis elbow brings forth various symptoms that can affect daily life. Recognizing them early on can make a substantial difference in managing and treating the condition. Common indicators include -
- Pain and Tenderness
The primary symptom is pain that begins on the elbow's exterior and might extend to the forearm and wrist. Gripping objects, turning doorknobs, or even a handshake can amplify this pain.
Many sufferers note a stiffness in the elbow, especially in the mornings or after long periods of inactivity.
- Weakness in the Forearm
Actions requiring a strong grip, like holding a cup, may become challenging.
- Numbness or Tingling
Some people might feel a pins-and-needles sensation extending to the fingers, primarily affecting the ring and little fingers.
- Increased Discomfort with Activity
Specific actions, like lifting weights or playing racket sports, might increase the discomfort.
What Are the Causes of Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow can originate from varied sources. Some common causes include -
- Repetitive Motion
Overuse of forearm muscles, particularly in gripping activities, can lead to these minor tendon tears.
- Sports Activities
Not just tennis but other racquet sports like squash or even golf can contribute, especially when played with the wrong technique.
- Occupational Hazards
Professions demanding repetitive forearm use, such as painters, plumbers, or carpenters, are more susceptible.
- Direct Trauma
A sudden blow to the elbow might initiate it.
Although prevalent among the 30-50 age group, it isn't restricted to them.
- Poor Warm-up or Equipment
Insufficient warm-up or unsuitable sports equipment can escalate the risk.
How Is Tennis Elbow Diagnosed?
Understanding if you have tennis elbow is pivotal for effective treatment. So, how do professionals identify it?
- Physical Examination
The primary approach is through a physical examination. A doctor may apply pressure to the impacted area or ask the patient to move their arm in various ways to determine the pain's exact location and intensity.
- Medical History
Discussing symptoms and activities can help a doctor pinpoint if repetitive strain might be the culprit.
- Imaging Tests
While physical exams are often sufficient, X-rays or MRI scans can be beneficial in ruling out other conditions like arthritis or stress fractures.
- Resistive Tests
A doctor might ask a patient to flex their wrist against resistance to see if it induces pain, a clear sign of tennis elbow.
- Nerve Tests
In rare cases, electromyography (EMG) might be conducted to eliminate nerve compression issues.
How Is Tennis Elbow Treated?
While a nagging condition is treatable, various approaches can offer relief. Here's a look at the primary treatment options -
- Rest and activity modification
- Physical therapy
- Pain relievers
- TENS machine therapy
Benefits of Using a TENS Machine for Tennis Elbow
1. Reduces Pain
The primary reason many turn to TENS therapyis its potent ability to provide pain relief for tennis elbow. When applied to the affected area, the machine emits electrical impulses that interfere with the pain signals being sent to the brain. This disruption leads to a significant reduction in the perception of pain.
2. Increases Blood Flow
The electrical stimulation from the TENS machine, often referred to as a 'TENS unit for tennis elbow, alleviates pain and enhances blood circulation to the targeted area. Increased blood flow is essential as it brings along nutrients and oxygen that aid in healing and reducing inflammation.
3. Relaxes Muscles
Muscle tension can aggravate tennis elbow symptoms. Thankfully, TENS technology for elbow discomfort stimulates the muscles, relaxing and reducing spasms. As the muscles relax, there's less strain on the affected tendons, further alleviating discomfort.
4. Improves Function
Regular use of the TENS machine can improve the functionality of the affected arm. By addressing pain, improving blood flow, and relaxing muscles, individuals can find it easier to perform daily tasks without discomfort. Over time, this promotes better mobility and range of motion.
How to Use a TENS Machine for Tennis Elbow
1. Choose a TENS Machine
Before diving into the treatment process, especially if considering electrotherapy for tennis elbow, the first step is to select an appropriate TENS machine. There are various models available, each with its own set of features. Consider factors such as battery life, intensity levels, and the number of electrode pads. Consulting with a physiotherapist or a medical expert can lead you in making an informed choice.
2. Place the Electrodes
Placement of the electrodes is pivotal for effective treatment. For tennis elbow, place the pads around the outer part of the elbow, ensuring they're not touching but are close enough to cover the painful area. Some users also find relief by placing an electrode on a muscle trigger point in the forearm.
3. Set the Settings
Once the electrodes are positioned correctly, it's time to configure the machine. Start at a low-intensity setting and gradually increase until you feel a tingling sensation without discomfort. The frequency can range from low (2-5 Hz) to high (50-100 Hz), depending on your comfort level and your healthcare provider's recommendations.
4. Use the TENS Machine Regularly
For tennis elbow treatment, consistency is the key. Using the TENS machine daily or as recommended can lead to more pronounced results. Each session's duration can vary, but 20-30 minutes is typically a good starting point. Refer to the machine's manual or seek expert advice for session lengths.
Beyond its sports connotation, tennis elbow affects many in their day-to-day life. With modern solutions like TENS machines, relief is accessible. For those seeking effective relief, guidance is essential. At Comfee Relief, our mission is to guide you toward a life with lesser pain and greater vitality.