Tennis elbow, also medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common injury affecting millions of people worldwide, especially those engaged in activities that require repetitive motion of the arms and wrists. This injury affects the muscles and tendons of the forearm, leading to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow. However, the modalities of Chinese Medicine, such as acupuncture, dry needling, and electro-acupuncture offer promising results in managing this condition.
Tennis Elbow and Its Causes
Tennis elbow, contrary to its name, isn’t exclusive to tennis players. It can occur as a result of any activity that involves repetitive wrist and arm motions, such as gardening, painting, typing, or even chopping ingredients in the kitchen. The repetitive motion can lead to small tears in the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of the elbow, the lateral epicondyle.
Acupuncture for Tennis Elbow
Traditional Chinese medicine has touted the benefits of acupuncture for thousands of years. It involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to alleviate pain or to treat various health conditions.
In the case of lateral epicondylitis, acupuncture has been found to be an effective treatment method. This is because acupuncture promotes circulation in the area of injury, reducing inflammation and accelerating the healing process. Additionally, acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, providing relief from the pain associated with tennis elbow.
Dry Needling for Tennis Elbow
Dry needling, while bearing resemblance to acupuncture, has a different approach. The practitioner uses a “dry” needle, one without medication or injection, to target myofascial trigger points that are creating muscle tension and discomfort.
Tennis elbow, being a condition that involves strained tendons and muscles, can benefit from dry needling. The needle incites a local twitch reflex, which can reduce muscle tension, disrupt pain signals, and promote healing.
The Future: Electro-Acupuncture for Tennis Elbow
Recently, a hybrid approach has gained attention—electro-acupuncture. It involves passing a small electric current between pairs of acupuncture needles, providing a continuous stimulus to the acupuncture points.
Electro-acupuncture for tennis elbow amplifies the benefits of traditional acupuncture by adding mild electrical stimulation. This further improves blood flow to the affected area, leading to more nutrients and oxygen being supplied to the injured tendons for quicker healing.
The length of treatment for tennis elbow varies depending on the severity of the condition and individual response to therapy. However, many people see significant improvements after 6 to 8 weeks of consistent treatment. It’s important to remember that while acupuncture, dry needling, and electro-acupuncture can help speed up recovery, they are most effective when combined with other measures such as rest, exercises, and sometimes a change in activity.
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a common condition that can be quite debilitating. However, advances in treatments such as acupuncture, dry needling, and electro-acupuncture offer promising results for quicker healing and pain relief. It is important to seek advice from a trained professional before starting any new treatment, but these therapies can offer a ray of hope to those suffering from this painful condition.