The question many people who have forearm pain near elbow frequently ask is, “How did this happen?” or “What did I do to deserve this”? Finding relief for any sort of pain can sometimes seem like a endless battle. Of course your family and friends are quick to offer their diagnosis because everyone is an expert.
First of all don’t worry, you’re not alone!
It doesn’t take much to strain the muscles and tendons in your forearms. Or should I say it doesn’t require heavy lifting or extreme force. Rather pain in your forearm, especially near your elbow is usually the result of performing an action, activity or movement over and over again where you extend and repeatedly bend your wrist upwards. This is where your investigation begins.
This type of pain is truly more stubborn and an inconvenience more than anything mainly because you rely on your dominant arm each and everyday. You are oblivious to your injury until you grasp or clinch something tight in your hand, this is when you are quickly reminded that something serious is going on with your forearm or elbow.
The real reason for forearm pain can be a mystery. For some people, you could be on the receiving end of blunt force trauma to the arm, while others simply get up one morning their arm is incredibly stiff and hard to fully extend and straighten. If you’ve recently taken a blow to your forearm, then there’s a very good chance your arm will heal in a couple days. But what about those who have absolutely no clue where their forearm pain has come from? This is where most people find themselves.
What kind of actions and movements can cause forearm pain near your elbow?
Think of movements that you do everyday or perhaps you have done within the past few days where you had to do the same movement over and over again without much of a break or rest time. Don’t think of heavy lifting activities, think more along the lines of duties that required you to constantly squeeze, grip or hold an object while doing some kind of work or task.
An activity that anyone who lives in a climate that receives snow in the winter is familiar with is shoveling snow. It seems like an innocent enough “force activity” but it can cause severe forearm pain especially if you are shoveling everyday or overusing your arm by doing the same action over and over again. Or in the springtime, raking up leaves from your garden or simply using a broom to sweep your driveway or sidewalk is an action that is intense enough to cause inflammation, pain and swelling in your elbow or forearm.
If you find that your forearm pain gets significantly worse once you grasp an object for example gripping/picking up the grocery bag, switching a screwdriver, gripping a coffee mug or perhaps holding a box straight out when in front of your body with all your arms at full length, elbows locked, then unfortunately there is a 99% chance you are suffering from the most common repetitive strain injury called lateral epicondylitis or more commonly called tennis elbow, which I will explain in detail a little further down.
So what if you’ve had outside elbow pain and/or upper forearm pain for more than 3 days? Are your experiencing outer elbow pain that sometimes shoots down your arm and into your wrist or hand? If so, what does this all mean and why does it matter?
This can be an indication that something more serious has happened and that you’ve actually injured yourself. There are so many small muscles in your forearm that help you grip and squeeze that an injury to any one of them creates a whole set of problems with the normal use of your arm. From a decrease in flexibility to a dramatic decrease in overall grip strength where you can no longer hold onto anything with confidence.
The injury that you most likely have suffered is referred to as tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis and elbow tendonitis. It mostly affects males between the ages of 40-60. Surprisingly enough the majority of cases come from people who are not tennis players.
Ask any medical professional who they mostly diagnose with tennis elbow the most: athletes or individuals who get from on the job. You’ll be surprised to know that the workplace is a much more riskier place for getting it than playing any sport – including tennis.
But to make sure that it is tennis elbow that you have, here are a couple of signs and indicators to watch out for:
a) Is your injured arm stiff and hard to fully straighten or extend?
b) Does the pain sometimes shoot from your elbow down your forearm and into your hand or wrist?
c) Have you noticed a decrease in grip strength or perhaps you sometimes drop things?
d) Is your elbow tender to the touch on the outer side of your forearm?
e) Do you experience an increase in elbow pain when you grip or squeeze tightly on an object? For example, does your elbow pain get worse when you carry grocery bags, turn a doorknob, shake someone’s hand or grip a coffee mug?
These are the top 5 symptoms and signs of a tennis elbow injury. Don’t worry about the name and it has very little to do with playing tennis. In fact, 95% of people who get it don’t even play tennis! But the danger lies in that the longer you wait to treat tennis elbow, the worse it gets as well as the longer your recovery might take.
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Statistics show over and over again that you are 10 times more likely to develop tennis elbow in the workplace than you are while playing tennis or any other sport. Tennis elbow is a major concern for occupational workplace and safety committees for the simple reason that individuals like yourself are having to take time away from work because of this injury which costs companies around the world millions of dollars each year in productivity loss.
The problem when trying to overcome tennis elbow is individuals think they can simply take it easy for a day from strenuous arm activities which caused their pain to begin with or simply pop a couple of anti-inflammatory pills to help dull the pain. Only the very next day, to go back to performing the same arm movements and repetitive wrist extension actions again because they think that their arm is fully healed. This is when things get dangerous and you actually make your things worse instead of better.
Which muscles and tendons of your forearm are damaged when you have tennis elbow?
The primary forearm muscles that become injured, inflamed and/or damaged when you get tennis elbow are the forearm extensors. These muscles sit on the top of your forearm and are responsible for movements such as gripping, squeezing and any other action that requires you to bend your wrist upwards.
Not many people give a second thought to how many times you have to grip, squeeze or hold something in your hand. Each time you that grip your coffee mug/cup, turn a doorknob, type on your computer keyboard, open your car door, grip your smartphone, etc… These are all tasks that we do each and everyday without even thinking about it until we start to experience pain.
As these forearm muscles become irritated from repeating the same action over and over again, they become inflamed and swollen. As a result, they start to tighten up and constrict which pulls on your extensor tendon which is attached at your elbow. This is when you start to experience, a decrease in your arm’s normal range of motion, flexibility plus some elbow tightness and stiffness – all common symptoms of tennis elbow.
Below is an image of where your extensor muscles and tendons are located on your arm.
So now that you know you have tennis elbow and that your forearm pain is not just a random thing, especially if it’s been hurting for 3 days or more, what can you do about it? What are some your options for treatment?
Let us first examine things that definitely won’t work as treatment options when it comes to tennis elbow. Popping anti-inflammatory pills on a daily basis only masks your pain and provides you temporary relief. When the capsules wear off, your forearm pain usually flares up worse than before taking the drugs.
Then there over the counter topical anti-inflammatory creams for muscle pain. It is physically impossible to repair a muscle or damaged tendon by rubbing on a cream, it’s as simply as that. You can rub on all you want, litres or gallons of the stuff and I guarantee that you will still be no better off. In fact, there are cases of people passing away from applying non prescription, OTC topical creams. Here is one example(http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/06/09/teen-dies-from-muscle-cream-overdose/). Please avoid these dangerous creams, it’s really not worth the risk.
Then there are the costs associated with trying to get rid of your tennis elbow and forearm pain near your elbow. I warn you to avoid doing what I did. Spending hundreds of dollars on Physiotherapy and Doctor visits. This is really a complete waste of your energy and money, mainly because most doctors don’t focus on treating tennis elbow and take it from me as someone who has spent over $700 on Doctors, they will take away your money and not your pain.
What about elbow braces and straps for tennis elbow? Do they really work? Again, it is from my personal experience that they are a waste of money. Not to mention that they promote muscle fatigue and weakness! Ever wonder why once you take off one of these simple elbow gimmicks that the arm/elbow feels like a spaghetti noodle? It is because every one of the muscles supporting the elbow are asleep and never properly engaged. These devices restrict blood flow as well, which is key for a full recovery. Isn’t the idea of recovering from an injury to help strengthen the build the muscles, tendons and ligaments back up, not deteriorate them?
Last but not least, you may be offered cortisone injections. While you may experience short term pain relief for about 3 weeks, they are not a lasting solution. I won’t go into details as to why they are not a long term solution, you can find many articles on this subject alone that supports my statements.
Tennis elbow is a very treatable condition that you can cure on your own from the comfort and convenience of your own home without drugs, medication, medical gadgets or special exercise equipment. No need for elbow braces or cortisone injections.
In fact, all it really takes are these 5 easy-to-follow techniques that you can do right now to eliminate your tennis elbow and forearm pain near your elbow for good!