Treating Tennis Elbow Naturally Print Write e-mail
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Tendinitis - Tendinitis 2010
Written by Frank Mangano   
Sunday, 26 December 2010 17:17

Tennis athletes won’t be bowing from competition if they come down with a rough case of tennis elbow this season.  That’s because doctors are now saying training – not rest – is its best remedy.

Among regular everyday Americans, cases of tennis elbow are few and far between, affecting about 1 to 3 percent of the population overall.

But perform a similar census among tennis players only, and you come to understand why it’s called “tennis elbow” – affecting about half of the tennis playing population!

As symptoms go, tennis elbow is an awful lot like tendonitis – throbbing pain that courses through the elbow, especially when put under stress.  Further, as with tendonitis, it rears its ugly head after overusing a particular joint or overdoing a particular movement.  That’s why triathletes and handymen often suffer from tendonitis, as both professions require repetitive motions.  But tennis elbow is different from tendonitis because it’s a condition that’s exclusive to the elbow (hence the name) and tends to manifests itself in whichever arm (or leg) someone is dominant in (i.e. the right elbow for “righties,” the left elbow for “lefties”).

Up to now, treatment for tennis elbow has typically included some (if not all) of the following:  plenty of rest so as not to exacerbate the pain or damage; icing the affected area to diminish the swelling; the administration of oral anti-inflammatories; cortisone injections; and finally, if it’s really serious, surgery.

Depending on how bad one’s tennis elbow is, these treatments have worked to varying degrees of success.  But a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Gothenburg is throwing a wrench into what heretofore has been conventional wisdom regarding tennis elbow alleviation.

The flaw to the conventional treatment for tennis elbow became clear after four months of study by the Swedish researchers, but it became even clearer when the researchers did a follow-up study just to be sure their results weren’t by chance (the first study included about 80 patients with tennis elbow; the follow-up study included just under 300 patients with tennis elbow).

In order for the affected elbow to heal, the tendons around the elbow must strengthen.  So instead of having the patients go through the rigmarole of never ending cortisone injections and daily anti-inflammatory doses, the Swedish researchers had the patients go through a highly structured physical therapy program that the patients were able to do in their own home.

The training program worked like a charm.

“A treatment program designed by a physiotherapist and occupational therapist together reduces the patients’ pain, increases the function of the elbow and hand, and reduces the duration of sick leave,” writes Pia Nilsson, a physiotherapist at Sahlgrenska Academy and author of the study.  “This program heals tennis elbow better than cortisone injections.  The method can provide benefits to the patient, the employer and society in general.”

Frank’s Take

The researchers pursued the effectiveness of treating tennis elbow sans cortisone injections and drugs because of the side effects associated with those treatments (Long-term:  loss of bone density, muscle weakening, nerve damage, thinning of the skin; Short-term:  Several hours of discomfort and pain at the site of injection, joint stiffness).  And as you know, any treatment that’s natural and avoids side effects is OK by me, so it’s with great pleasure that I can report these positive findings.

That’s not the end of the story, of course.  Because just as this study concludes, tennis elbow treatment doesn’t have to include cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory medications.  Next to physical therapy, natural supplements can also be used to treat tennis elbow.

Naturally Treating Other Tendonitis-related Conditions

Now, as I mentioned, tennis elbow is an awful lot like tendonitis because they both involve the inflammation of tendons, accompanied by pain.  It’s also similar to bursitis, which is another stress-related injury.  There are subtle differences to all of them, but the natural treatments for them are the same.  Combined with physical therapy, all of them should help expedite healing.

Reducing Inflammation

As I’ve mentioned in past pieces, inflammation is the body’s response to pain.  Quelling that pain requires the dialing back of the inflamed tendons.  Natural anti-inflammatories include vitamin C with bioflavonoids (at least 3,000 mg), vitamin E (at least 200 IUs), and grape seed extract.  Another supplement to consider is called Inflazyme Forte.  It’s made by American Biologics and is packed with antioxidants like rutin, superoxide dismutase, and catalase.  These ingredients help ramp up the body’s anti-inflammatory defense.

Repairing Damaged Tissue

Nothing’s going to get better if connective tissue isn’t made whole again.  That process can be expedited through the use of mineral supplements that support muscular function and growth like calcium (at least 1,500 mg) and magnesium (at least 750 mg), zinc, free-form amino acid complex, and glucosamine sulfate.  Glucosamine is an amino acid that the body produces naturally and helps build (and rebuild) tendons, cartilage, and damaged sacs that surround joints.

Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies have been known to heal damage done to tendons and tissue.  For instance, boswellia and bromelain both possess powerful anti-inflammatory abilities.  In fact, that’s what both are known for.  According to the National Institutes of Health, bromelain is considered as effective as prescription painkillers when used in combination with the enzyme trypsin and the bioflavonoid rutin.

Another herbal remedy to consider taking for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits is horsetail extract.  Horsetail contains a special mineral called silica.  When combined with the mineral phosphorus, the body’s healing process becomes much more efficient.  The anti-inflammatory benefits are magnified further when combining horsetail with meadowsweet and willow bark.

All of the aforementioned supplements and herbs should be readily available at your nearest health and nutrition store. (Note:  The Vitamin Shoppe does not contain meadowbrook, but they do have several horsetail and willow bark products.  I prefer Nature’s Way.)

Balch, Phyllis A.  “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition. Avery:  New York.  2006.



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