Tennis elbow, which is referred to medically as lateral epicondylitis, is a repetitive-use injury that occurs when microscopic tears form in the tendons that surround the elbow. Despite the name, tennis elbow doesn't only affect tennis players; anyone who routinely subjects those tendons repeatedly, including carpenters, painters, and plumbers, can be at increased risk of developing the condition.
With appropriate physiotherapy, a minor case of tennis elbow can be treated very quickly, but severe cases may take months to heal. Unfortunately, people who have developed tennis elbow will often wait until the pain become serious before seeking medical attention.
This isn't something that you should let happen, so keep an eye out for these common early warning signs of tennis elbow.
Discomfort Around the Elbow
As with most repetitive strain injuries, the pain of tennis elbow tends to be preceded by a slight feeling of discomfort. When the condition has only just begun to develop, you might feel a light stiffness centralized around the outside of your elbow, and this should be most pronounced when the elbow is held at ninety degrees. Swelling may or may not be present at this stage.
Decreased Grip Strength
One of the earliest, and often most bewildering, signs of tennis elbow is a reduction in grip strength. Though a condition that is associated with the elbow, the problem will initially present difficulties with the hands. Tennis players will find that they can't seem to grip their rackets as tightly as they used to, which often begins to noticeably impair their performance on the court.
If you don't play tennis, you might find that you have problems gripping jars to open them or experience a sense of discomfort when shaking someone's hand or turning a door knob. As the condition becomes more serious, you will start to find it uncomfortable simply to grasp your hand into a fist.
Stiffness in the Morning
Since our heartrate tends to drop and our limbs tend to remain still while we sleep, it is relatively common to experience feelings of stiffness when we wake up and get out of bed. As such, a particularly strong sense of stiffness in any one particular area is likely to be ignored. However, a stiffness in the elbow, which will sometimes be accompanied by persistent aching, is an early warning sign of tennis elbow that should not be ignored, even if both complaints go away after an hour or two.
For more information, talk to a physiotherapist.