Can Tennis Elbow Be Permanent?

Tennis elbow is marked by swelling and pain in the elbow region due to constant overuse of forearm. It is common in people who are engaged in the professions where there is excessive use of forearm such as painting, carpentry, typing, butchering, plumbing and sports like tennis, weightlifting, swimming, etc. The repetitive use of the forearm in an incorrect manner can cause stress on the muscles and tendons of this area resulting in its tear and inflammation. The pain can range from mild to severe and can extend to the forearm. This condition is a self-limiting condition which ends in 6 months to 2 years according to the damage.

Can Tennis Elbow Be Permanent?

Can Tennis Elbow Be Permanent?

Tennis elbow can become a permanent problem if it is not treated on time. Tennis elbow is a painful self-limiting disorder caused by the frequent strenuous activities of the forearm. It causes tears and inflammation of the muscles and tendons involved in the affected area. Without proper rest and adequate healing with continuity of the strenuous activity, tennis elbow can become a permanent problem.

A group of muscles and tendons join the elbow joint to the forearm providing strength and mobility to the forearm. These muscles are mainly extensor muscles of the forearm. The inappropriate action of the forearm done repeatedly can lead to small tears in the muscles and tendons. This causes excessive pain when the hand is extended fully or straightened. The pain can also be due to the irritation and the inflammation of the nerves involved in this area.

This condition is given the name tennis elbow as 5% of the racquet players develop this condition. However, anyone can develop tennis elbow by other activities like weightlifting, swimming or playing violin in which forearm is frequently used. These activities cause strain to the muscles and tendons. It usually affects the people at the age between 30 to 50 years.

Tennis elbow can happen in both the hands at a time, but it is likely to affect the arm which is used most. Depending on the damage, recovery may occur in between six months to two years without treatment. Relapse of tennis elbow is also common.

The causes of tennis elbow involve repetitive twisting of the wrist and forearm muscles happening in activities like-

  • Racquet sports like badminton, tennis or squash
  • Throwing sports like discus or javelin
  • Use of paintbrush in painting
  • Use of shears in gardening
  • Manual tasks like plumbing or bricklaying
  • Use of scissors in tailoring or fine works
  • Repetitive bending the elbow like playing the violin

The symptoms of tennis elbow are-

  • Tennis elbows start with mild pain and tenderness over the elbow joint.
  • The pain is felt worse when hands are used to perform any work.
  • Stiffness in the elbow in the morning.
  • The pain gets worse with the time and it becomes so severe that pain is felt even when the forearm is still.
  • Pain radiates from the elbow to the forearm and wrist.
  • Soreness in the muscles of the forearm.
  • Weakness in the elbow.
  • Numbness and tingling in hand, arm or wrist.
  • Pain is felt worst while.
  • Bending or lifting your arm.
  • Writing or gripping small objects like pen.
  • Holding a cup.
  • Twisting the forearm like turning a handle of the door or opening a jar.
  • Extending the arm.
  • Shaking hands.
  • squeezing an object.

The healing process of the muscles and tendons involved in the tennis elbow is slow. Complete abstinence of the causative activity is essential to provide rest to the forearm and enhance healing process without further injury. If the causative strenuous activity is continued, wear and tears develop in the muscles and tendons. With the time, the muscles and tendons become thick and irregular with the deposition of the scar tissues on them. Without proper rest and adequate healing, it may cause permanent damage to the tendons.

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