Lateral epicondylitis, also known as the tennis elbow, is a common injury when the elbow is overused during activity, typically from sports like tennis that involve a lot of arm movement. 

A tennis elbow is a medical condition characterized by a sharp pain in the tendon located near the elbow area. It is a common occurrence among tennis players or those who frequently play racquet sports. However, it can also affect individuals who do repetitive motions with their arms, even if they do not play tennis at all.

One of the best ways to deal with a tennis elbow is by using a compression wrap. Aside from allowing the injured area to heal correctly, a wrap may be able to provide some support to help minimize the pressure on the affected area. You can also use sports tape to stabilize the injury and prevent swelling or inflammation.

Here are a couple of points you need to consider so you will know how to tape tennis elbow.

What is Tennis Elbow?

Guy Playing tennis

Tennis elbow is the inflammation on the tendon that joins together all of the forearm muscles. This tendon is located near the elbow. It works together with the nearby joint to allow the wrist to articulate. Tennis elbow happens when this area of the elbow is overused or overloaded. The increased pressure directed towards the tendon will damage it, causing it to develop intense pain as well as tenderness.

The elbow is a joint that connects the single bone of your upper arm with the two bones in the forearm. The forearm’s muscles extend all the way from the wrist and fingers and they help these parts of the body gain multidirectional movement. This tendon is called the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis or ECRB. This tendon is where tennis elbow occurs, which is why when you suffer from this injury, it can be quite challenging to move the forearms and sometimes even extend the wrists and fingers.

What are the Common Causes of a Tennis Elbow?

Guy flexing elbow

One of the most common causes of tennis elbow is overuse. The ECRB muscle stabilizes the forearm and absorbs the most impact whenever you use the whole arm to do an action with the elbow being in a straight position. Subjecting the ECRB to this kind of use frequently creates microtears. This is why activities such as tennis, especially when you frequently do a groundstroke, will weaken the forearm muscles and damage the tendon over time. The ECRB can also be overused and damaged whenever the elbow is frequently bent and straightened. Especially if there is too much pressure involved, the tendon can get rubbed against the bone, which may cause gradual wear and tear.

Another common cause of tennis elbow is the nature of work or activity that you frequently do. This type of injury does not only happen to athletes; workers like manual laborers also have a high risk of developing this kind of injury. For example, blacksmiths who need to use the hammer at high forces and impact pressures daily, may easily suffer from a tennis elbow. The same thing goes for carpenters, painters, and people doing construction work.

Age and injury can also play a part when it comes to getting a tennis elbow. Older people who may no longer have the proper muscle or joint integrity can experience pain in the elbow area. People who also experienced injuries to bones or muscles in their arms may also suffer from a tennis elbow later on.

What are the Common Symptoms of a Tennis Elbow?

Guy flexing arm

When it comes to knowing the signs and symptoms of a tennis elbow, there are more symptoms to look out for than just pain. You should understand how the elbow pain develops. While sudden injuries to the elbow can cause pain and discomfort, the tennis elbow is different because the pain is not acute. Instead, the pain will worsen across several weeks or months. It should also be noted that before one might suspect having a tennis elbow, there should be no previous accident or injury relating to the pain in the elbow area.

Here are some of the symptoms that you need to look out for:

■A growing pain in the elbow/arm that intensifies over time

■ A pain that hinders you from moving your forearm properly

■Pain that is felt when shaking hands or twisting the wrists

■ Weakness when it comes to grip strength

It should also be noted that both arms can suffer from a tennis elbow at the same time. This situation may happen when both arms are frequently used during weightlifting, bodybuilding, and during some cardio exercises.

Diagnosing a tennis elbow to establish it as a fact is also different from trying to assess the situation on your own. Diagnosing a tennis elbow may require an x-ray scan to rule out osteoporosis. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or an Electromyography (EMG) may also be needed to check for nerve compression or arthritis.

How is a Tennis Elbow Treated?

Guy stretching

Treating a tennis elbow may require either a surgical or non-surgical approach. In most cases, doctors will prescribe pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medicines, and rest for those who have just begun experiencing pain from a tennis elbow. Doctors will also recommend that patients use a brace, a sports tape or compression wrap to help reduce the pain in the forearm and tendon. As much as 80-90% of the patients who used these medical responses have had success against the tennis elbow.

Doctors may also recommend that you check your exercise equipment or racquet, use steroid injections, avail of physiotherapy, or use shockwave therapy to recover from this problem faster. However, people who do not respond well to non-surgical treatments after a minimum of six months might have to go through surgery to help them deal with their tennis elbow problem. The surgical procedure for a tennis elbow may require an open surgery where the doctor might have to remove diseased muscle tissues.

The Benefits of Taping a Tennis Elbow

How to tape a tennis elbow

Using athletic tape to help deal with a tennis elbow has been scientifically proven to decrease elbow pain. The use of tapes has also been known to do the following:

■Provide significant pain relief

■ Help patients get a pain-free grip

■Reduce pain caused by wrist extension

Compression has also been known to help people deal with tennis elbow by providing people with the following benefits:

■It may help limit the range of motion

Using a wrap will help prevent the muscles in the forearm to move too much. By limiting the range of motion, you can avoid triggering the pain that is often activated when you move the fingers, wrist, and forearm. Limiting the muscles’ mobility in the forearm may also help damaged muscles rest and recover properly, aside from reducing discomfort.

■Compression may provide to the whole elbow

Providing support to the elbow joint allows you to avoid the intense pain that is often associated with having a tennis elbow. But at the same time, the pressure created by the compression wrap allows you to regain some of the mobility that you might need so you can still keep on using your hands and wrists with only a little discomfort.

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■Using a wrap and a tape may help provide pressure

The pressure that you can get from a compression wrap can be targeted to areas that need the most healing and support. The presence of pressure may help you avoid swelling and inflammation, and it may also help improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to hasten repair. 

■Compression may also help provide warmth

Compression may help cover the injured area of the elbow. This allows the affected area to have the protection it needs from cold, which may trigger pain. Injured tendons, muscle tissues, and joints are often susceptible to slight changes in temperature. By providing it with warmth, blood flow can stay normal, and you may be able to avoid discomfort as well as sudden bursts of pain.

How to Tape Tennis Elbow

Wraps for tennis elbow

To tape a tennis elbow, we highly recommend that you use self-gripping compression wrap and an easy-rip tape. We suggest that you use our Easy Rip Trainer’s Tape, as well as our SuperusGrip FItness, self-adhering performance compression wrap. These products may offer the best stability and compression. They may also be able to provide adequate support to your elbow area to minimize the pain and decrease the pressure on your injured tendons. You may also use a compression wrap if you do not have any of these sports tapes yet. 

Step 1

Using the compression wrap, start by wrapping the forearm three to four inches below the elbow. Secure the loose end of the wrap by overlapping the next wrap rotation by half over it. Each time the wrap goes outwards, pull it slightly to increase the tension slowly. The goal here is to add compression and never to restrict blood flow.

Step 2

Let the patient bend his or her elbow slightly. If the patient is experiencing pain, allow the patient to bend it to a level where he or she is comfortable. 

Step 3

Wrap upwards, going to the upper arm by rolling the wrap diagonally. Then make a figure 8 pattern by rolling it through the back of the upper arm and then rolling it downwards and across the previous wrap as you go back down to the forearm. Secure the figure 8 pattern by wrapping around the forearm once. 

Step 4

Do the previous procedure one more time but before you take the roll downwards to make the figure 8 pattern, wrap the roll around the biceps twice before going down towards the forearm. Repeat this procedure until the entire elbow has been wrapped.

Step 5

Secure the end of the wrap using an easy-rip tape. You can also opt to cover the wrap around the forearm with more tape if you think the area needs more compression or support.

Conclusion

Wrap

A tennis elbow is a problem that can worsen if left untreated. In most cases, racquet sports are the main culprits behind this type of injury. However, it can also happen to individuals who do manual labor or to older, more susceptible individuals. While in most cases, minor treatments such as compression using a sports tape, rest, and over-the-counter medications can quickly help treat the problem, there are situations where the tennis elbow will worsen over time. If this happens, the doctor may recommend that you opt for surgical treatments.

To tape a tennis elbow, you will need to make use of a compression wrap or a self-grip wrap and an easy-rip tape. These athletic tools should be a part of any first aid kit because they can be handy for athletes and everyday workers. Compression is known to help get injuries and swelling under control, and its immediate use is also considered necessary for faster recovery.

Here are some of the compression wrap and athletic tape products that we highly recommend.