Ease the pain of tennis elbow with acupuncture and TCM
Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition characterized by pain and stiffness in the elbow and forearm. Tennis elbow is very annoying and often hinders you in your daily activities. There are many different types of treatment for tennis elbow, including anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, ultrasound, platelet rich plasma injections, and steroid injections. But if you are into a more natural, holistic and non-medication healing, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) might be a good option.
What is a tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow usually occurs due to repeated strain on the forearm and wrist, which causes small tears in the tendons. The tendons that connect the forearm and wrist muscles to the bone on the outside of the elbow are overused and irritated in tennis elbow. This irritation leads to inflammation and pain, which is usually felt in the area around the outer elbow and can radiate to the forearm and wrist. There might also be a burning sensation in the muscle on the outer forearm. Pain and weakness in the elbow and wrist can make it difficult to perform regular actions like holding a cup or using a computer mouse.
Golfer’s elbow is a similar condition in that it is also an overuse injury that causes weakness and pain in the forearm. The difference is that with golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, is that the pain is located on the inner elbow. The pain is more pronounced when flexing/bending the arm rather than extending/straightening it as opposed to the tennis elbow.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Outer elbow pain or burning sensation
Pain when making a fist or bending the forearm (golfer’s elbow)
Pain when opening the fingers or straightening the forearm (tennis elbow)
Soreness around the affected elbow area (either inner or outer elbow)
Grip is weak
Difficulties and pain when trying to grab items
Who suffers from a tennis elbow?
You don’t have to play tennis to develop the condition, any excessive and repetitive movements that use the muscles and tendons of the elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand and involve gripping an object are making you prone to it. Construction workers, cooks, butchers, plumbers, factories workers, even office workers with long hours of computer work are at risk to the condition. Other factors that increase the risk of a tennis elbow are poor posture, weak muscles, old age, overweight, smoking, and certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is most common in people aged between 40 and 50 years.
Acupuncture as a natural painkiller for a tennis elbow
Acupuncture is a technique that falls under the broader category of TCM. TCM uses a variety of modalities to treat pains. It includes acupuncture treatment, electro-acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, Tui Na massage, exercise, and Chinese herbs. By combining different forms of treatment, it give faster results and longer effects.
A typical Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of very thin, filament needles into specific points in the body. The theory is that this intervention can “unblock” the flow of energy – referred to as ‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’ in TCM – which is thought to flow along these Meridian pathways in the body. And restoring the normal flow of this energy is thought to be essential to healing and the reversal of disease in TCM. Modern studies found that by placing fine needles at various points in the body, the production of the body's own substances and neurotransmitters like endorphins is stimulated therefore giving a pain relief.
The evidence of the healing power of acupuncture
A 2005 review of four studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found significant pain relief with acupuncture compared with placebo. Overall, reduction of pain was 55.8 percent in the acupuncture group and 15 percent in the placebo group. A 2015 study combined results from six different studies. Two of the studies compared real acupuncture with sham acupuncture, which involves placing the needle in non-traditional acupuncture points at random. The authors found a benefit with standard acupuncture compared to sham acupuncture.
What does an acupuncture treatment look like?
The treatment lasts 45-60 minutes. The acupuncturist will check your condition with the TCM diagnostics like interviewing, checking your pulse and tongue. After the assessment, you will proceed to the treatment room where the acupuncturist places a number of very small needles, spread across your body. Then you can relax or sleep for 30 minutes. Acupuncture does not hurt. Everybody responses to acupuncture differently. But it usually takes 2-8 treatments, 5 treatments by average. To give stronger and longer lasting effects, the acupuncturist usually suggest an individualized herbal mixture to take home as well as dietary adjustments and exercise.