Acupuncture for Tennis & Golfer's Elbow
What Is Tennis Elbow...Golfer's Elbow?
Epicondyle: any of several prominences on the distal part of a long bone serving for the attachment of muscles and ligaments. Those bony bumps on the inside and outside of your elbow are called epicondyles.
Epicondylitis: inflammation or damage to the area of an epicondyle of bone.
Tennis Elbow and Golfers Elbow are two different manifestations of epicondylitis and are very painful. These injuries typically "flare up" over a period of years unless treatment is properly addressed. The most common reason for these injuries is from repetitive motion tasks, and the first thing your physician will tell you is to stop doing whatever it was that caused this problem in the first place. This is a big problem for many patients when you are trying to heal this injury, as it typically means you have to stop working. If this sounds like you, then you know how important it is to heal your elbow injury quickly and make sure it doesn't happen again when you get back to work.
Tennis Elbow is a form of tendinosis that is derived from swelling and tenderness on and around the extensor tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle (small bony part on the outside of your elbow). Tennis Elbow affects tendons located in your forearm that are used for extension of your wrist and fingers.
Golfers Elbow is also a form of tendinosis that is derived from swelling and tenderness on and around the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle (small bony part on the outside of your elbow). The affected tendons are just different than that of tennis elbow. Golfers Elbow affects the tendons in the forearm that are used for flexion of the wrist and fingers (ie. make a fist).
What is Tendinosis?
Tendinosis is a non-inflammatory degeneration of the collagen fibers of a tendon. When you are diagnosed with tendinosis, one or more of the extensor tendons in your forearm have become chronically damaged. This means that the speed of tissue damage has exceeded the healing process over a significant period of time. Eventually the accumulation of damage to the tendon is not able to heal properly. The tendon fibers break down to a point where the once straight, strong, flexible bundle of collagen fibers become weakened by abnormally formed fibers that look more like a mess of strands.
Tendinosis tissue breakdown is often caused by repetitive stress on the tendon fibers. Overuse and not enough time to rest does not allow the tendon's fibers the time required to heal properly. Tendinosis can also occur following an acute injury to the tendon, however, it does not appear until long after the injury occurs. If an acute injury is not given enough rest to heal, re-injury may continue to occur faster than the tendon can heal. This will eventually lead to degeneration of the collagen fibres as well.
Since there is no inflammation with tendinosis you may not experience swelling, heat or redness. However, you will experience pain, tenderness and stiffness within the tendons of the elbow and forearm where the tissue degeneration has occurred. When severe enough, the pain will radiate into the hand and even into the fingers.
Tendon damage and/or tendinosis damage are quite common in the elbow joint as these tendons are subjected to high levels of tension on a frequent basis. The extensor tendons (used when extending wrist and fingers) and flexor tendons for closing wrist and fingers) are used in thousands of tasks, often handling very high levels of stress. Combined, these 2 sets of tendons handle almost every task imaginable (ie. handshake, typing, driving, using a hammer/racquet/tv remote/phone, golfing) that you might do with your hands, forearms or fingers and partly for such reasons, healing can take a long time. Especially without proper treatment.
Continuous re-injury and build-up of scar tissue while staying active means you will have a greater chance of winding up with on-going elbow pain, more tearing in your tendon, tendinosis (thickening of your tendon) or even a full rupture.
If you have pain and inflammation in the tendons of your elbow or muscle tissue, it's very important to heal your injury completely. You must avoid the buildup of scar tissue (and the corresponding mobility limitations that inevitably follow). If you don't, your elbow injury may plague you forever. This is why it is so important to continuously use conservative treatment tools to heal recurring soft tissue damage before it can build into something much bigger.
The biggest challenge one will face with a tennis elbow or golfer's elbow injury is at work. It is highly probable that when at work you will be stressing the elbow is some form or other. In an office setting, sitting for extended period of times and working at a keyboard will stress the forearms, as does repetitive tasks in professions such as dentistry, cooking and others that require gripping or constant hand & arm motion. For tradespeople, warehouse workers, and those in a factory setting, there is constant lifting and moving - both of which greatly stress the elbow joint.
This is why it is important to heal your elbow tendinosis injury quickly and effectively - so you can start living a normal life again; both at home and at work.
Elbow injury sufferers will always be at risk of re-injuring their elbow. It's just not possible to stop everything and rest the injury properly. Everyone has demands that make them keep going and when we are active we prevent the elbow from healing completely.
Elbow Injuries Not Only Affect the Elbow- But Can Lead to Other Conditions & Injuries.
Every time we use our injured elbow, damaged and swollen tendons and muscle tissue move; when they are inflamed, every movement hurts. With injured tissue, pain happens - sometimes a LOT of pain, so we try not to move it. So, when doing something we need to use our elbow for (getting dressed, driving, talking on the phone), we start to use the shoulder and even the neck more. If we can, we use our other elbow instead, even though it is inconvenient and usually the non-dominant elbow.
Before you decide on any treatment path, an understanding of the three major stages of the healing process is critical. With the right knowledge and the right treatment options, you can accelerate your recovery without the fear of re-injury or setbacks (which unfortunately, happens to many people - we will explain why further down the page).
Step 1: Reduce The Initial Inflammation
Inflammation is the body's natural response to an immediate elbow injury and is a normal part of the healing process - helping to reduce tissue infection in the early stages of injury. Swelling, pain, heat sensation, redness, and loss of function are the main symptoms experienced.
The combination of rest, topical pain relief cream and minor amounts of cold therapy is the gold standard in medicine for minimizing tissue damage and reducing inflammation after injury or activity. It serves as a critical bridge into the next phase of the healing process.
Step 2: Enhance Blood Flow to the Injured Soft Tissue
Tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and some muscle fibers are dense tissues. As a result, they naturally receive limited blood flow and this is precisely why injuries to these tissues take so long to heal. Heating pads merely provide a surface heat and do not effectively penetrate into the dense tissues.
Therapy is helpful, but that only happens a few times a week.
It is through the blood that the body carries nutrients, oxygen, and antibodies that injured tissue needs to repair and rebuild. Research shows that acupuncture is a very effective treatment for stimulating blood circulation to dense tissues such as tendons, ligaments, muscles, and even vascular portions of cartilage. This dramatically improves the healing process. This increased blood flow speeds up the healing process, clearing the area of toxins and excess fluid build up, thereby reducing inflammation.
Step 3: Recognize That Healing is a Process
With dedication, the right tools, and the right information - you will achieve your goal of a sustainable recovery. A combination approach of acupuncture, cold therapy, deep heat treatments, and functional movements will make it happen much more quickly. Healing takes a comprehensive approach and will differ from person to person.