Tennis elbow, the bane of many athletes and active individuals, is a condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort in the elbow and forearm. Whether you’re an avid tennis player or someone who engages in repetitive arm movements, understanding the duration of this condition is crucial for effective management and a swift return to normal activities.
To understand this condition better, we will explore the timeline of this injury, shedding light on the factors that influence its duration and providing insights into treatment options.
1.The Initial Stages: Recognising the Symptoms
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, typically begins with mild symptoms that gradually worsen over time. Initially, you may experience a dull ache or discomfort on the outside of your elbow. This may be accompanied by a weakened grip and difficulty in performing activities that involve gripping, lifting or twisting objects. It can often be worse in the mornings or at the start of exercise/activity, and then it “warms up”.
It is essential to recognise these early signs and take prompt action to prevent the condition from progressing.
2. Acute Phase: How Long Will the Pain Last?
The duration of tennis elbow can vary from person to person, but the acute phase generally lasts between six weeks to three months. During this phase, the pain and irritation of the structure in the affected area are at their peak.
Rest, ice and heat combinations can help alleviate symptoms. However, managing the workload of the arm under the guidance of a physiotherapist, is crucial to a proper recovery, which maintains strength and diminishes pain.
3. Subacute Phase: The Road to Recovery
After the acute phase, the subacute phase sets in, lasting approximately three to six months. During this stage, the pain gradually diminishes, but it may still be present, especially with activities that stress the affected tendons.
Physiotherapy and targeted exercises play a crucial role in this phase, helping to strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, and promote healing. It is essential to follow a comprehensive rehabilitation plan prescribed by a qualified healthcare professional to ensure optimal recovery.
4. Chronic Phase: Patience and Persistence
For some individuals, tennis elbow may persist beyond the six-month mark, entering the chronic phase. This phase can last for several months or even years if left untreated or if appropriate interventions are not implemented.
Chronic tennis elbow requires a multidisciplinary approach, including physiotherapy, ergonomic modifications, possible bracing/taping or other advanced treatment options. Patience and persistence are key during this phase, as it may take time to fully resolve the condition and restore normal function.
5. Factors Influencing Recovery Time
Several factors can influence the duration of tennis elbow and the overall recovery time. These include:
- Severity of the Injury: The extent of the damage to the tendons and surrounding tissues can impact the healing process. More severe and chronic cases take longer to heal compared to mild to moderate cases.
- Age and Overall Health: Younger individuals and those in good overall health tend to recover more quickly due to their body’s healing capacity. Older individuals or those with underlying health conditions may experience a slower recovery.
- Treatment Compliance: Adhering to a comprehensive treatment plan, including physiotherapy exercises, activity and lifestyle modification, greatly influences the recovery timeline. Consistency and compliance with recommended interventions are vital for optimal outcomes.
- Activity Modification: Making necessary adjustments to activities that exacerbate symptoms, such as using proper form, using appropriate equipment, and being cautious with repetitive motions, can significantly contribute to a quicker recovery.
Treat Tennis Elbow With the Support of a Practitioner
Tennis elbow can be a frustrating and painful condition, but understanding its timeline is essential for effective management and a successful recovery.
While the acute phase typically lasts up to three months, the subacute and chronic phases may extend the recovery timeline. It is important to remember that each individual’s journey with tennis elbow is unique, and the duration of the condition can vary based on various factors.
To ensure a swift recovery and minimise the impact of tennis elbow on your daily life, seeking professional help is highly recommended.
At A Pinch of Prevention, we offer expert care in treating tennis elbow and other musculoskeletal conditions.