One of the most common injuries among sports participants and manual laborers is “tennis elbow”, a form of tendonitis associated with elbow pain. With proper care, lifestyle modification, and nonsurgical intervention this painful condition can heal itself. However, the symptoms must be recognized soon for optimal healing. This article discusses the causes and symptoms of tennis elbow, as well as suggested intervention, including the use of the herb Solomon’s Seal in tincture, salve and liniment form.
WHAT IS TENNIS ELBOW?
The exact cause of tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is unkown. It is generally thought to be due to small tears of the tendons that attach forearm muscles to the arm bone at the elbow joint. The muscle group involved, the wrist extensors, function to cock the wrist back. Specifically, the extensor carpi radialis brevis is implicated in causing the symptoms of tennis elbow.
In layperson terms, the elbow is meant to allow people to extend and then contract their arms. However, repetitive use or aging can cause a degenerative process (short or long term) resulting in the irritation, swelling, and inflammation of the elbow tendons. The symptoms may be the result of an incomplete healing response in an area that does not have good blood flow and therefore has difficulty accessing nutrition and oxygen necessary for healing. This leads to degeneration of the tendon causing small tears. As people age, the elasticity in their elbow tendons can degenerate and become brittle.
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE?
The pain associated with tennis elbow usually has a gradual onset, but it may also come on suddenly, effecting about 75 percent of those experiencing it. Most sufferers (men and women equally) are between the ages of 35 and 65 years old, but younger people suffer as well, if involved in particular repetitive-motion activities. Anyone can be affected (not just tennis players!), even a person experiencing the constant yanking of a dog on a leash. However, tennis elbow is most commonly seen in two groups of people:
- Manual Laborers
People who work with their hands are at greater risk of developing elbow tendonitis. Plumbers, painters, roofers, and carpenters are susceptible. Similarly, people involved in factory work, road construction, yard and landscape maintenance, and gardening can experience elbow discomfort.
- Sports Participants
Sports participants, especially racquet sport players, are prone to developing tennis elbow. About a third of regular tennis players experience tennis elbow at some point in their careers. In addition to racquet sports, elbow tendonitis is seen in golfers, fencers, weightlifters, rock climbers and other sports enthusiasts.
There are several ways elbow tendonitis can occur. A sudden increase in the amount of activity, exercise, or movement in the arms is a significant cause. People who work in factories are usually prone because of this. Various injuries, such as a fall, can also cause elbow tendonitis. Finally, athletes who repeatedly use their arms for sports or strengthening are susceptible and are encouraged to gradually condition their tendons in order to avoid elbow problems.
Tennis elbow syndrome is experienced as pain on the outside of the elbow that is worsened by grasping objects (even a coffee mug!) and cocking back the wrist. The most common symptoms of tennis elbow are:
- Pain over the outside of the elbow
- Pain when lifting objects
- Pain radiating down the forearm
- Inability to carry objects or use your arm
- Elbow pain that occurs at night or while resting
- Elbow pain that persists beyond a few days
- Inability to straighten or flex your arm
- Swelling or significant bruising around the joint or arm
- Any other unusual symptoms
If elbow tendonitis symptoms are recognized and treated soon after they begin, there is usually a better chance of the tendons healing quickly. Symptoms can also include pain behind the elbow joint after exercise, feeling pain whenever the arm is extended, or feeling a burning sensation after exerting the arm. Stiffness might also be experienced while trying to bend the arm against resistance.
Knowing the limits of one’s body is very important when trying to prevent elbow tendonitis. Elbow tendonitis is usually less prevalent in those who have, over time, conditioned their tendons to be flexible. If a person tries to push their body beyond what it is capable of doing, they will be more susceptible to injury.
METHODS OF TREATMENT
Successful treatment of elbow tendonitis usually involves being able to relieve pain, and reduce tendon and joint inflammation. In some mild cases, resting the tendons can allow them to heal on their own. Nonsurgical treatment is effective in over 90% of sufferers. Treatment options include the following:
- Rest & Lifestyle Modification
R.I.C.E (meaning Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is a common treatment for many injuries and works well with tennis elbow. At the same time, it is useful to evaluate and modify the use of equipment (sports or vocational) including the mechanics and technique of grasp, stroke and the like.
- Elbow Brace & Conditioning Exercises
An elbow orthosis (elbow clasp) can be worn during activity to redirect the pull of misaligned muscles. Warming up before doing any form of work, exercise, or athletic activity can help tendon elasticity. This can, in turn, lower the chances of inflammation or injury. Light stretching can gradually be implemented if the tendons start to improve. If discomfort is experienced afterward, however, a longer period of rest usually is suggested. Exercises to strengthen your forearm muscles and elbow are also beneficial. These may include the use of light weights or a small palm-sized squeeze ball. Simple exercises can help your muscles better absorb the energy of sudden physical stress.
- Anti-inflammatory Medications
For pain relief, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox) can be used. Use as directed or in consultation with your medical advisor. Word of caution: Prolonged use can cause gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, heartburn, interfer with other medications, etc.
- Herbal Intervention (tincture, salve and/or liniment)
The use of herbal formulas is one of the most natural and effective ways to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and assist in healing muscles, joints and connective tissues. There are generally little or no side effects. The strategic use of the herb Solomon’s Seal is discussed below.
HOW SOLOMON’S SEAL AIDS IN ELBOW TENDONITIS
The allantoin in Solomon’s Seal acts as an anti-inflammatory that is good not only for joints but also for inflammations of the stomach and bowels. It soothes irritated or damaged tissues and reduces general inflammation. The mucilaginous qualities help to soothe and ease gastric irritation. The value of Solomon’s Seal cannot be underestimated in those instances where NSAIDs (specifically aspirin) damage the lining (or mucosa) of the digestive tract primarily in the stomach and upper intestine. This damage can result in an ulcer or intestinal bleeding.
EFFECT ON SOFT CONNECTIVE TISSUES
The soft connective tissues surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments that are damaged/injured often results in inflammation, swelling and edema. It should be understood that excessive out-of-balance tensions on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments can cause unnatural pressures and therefore bony overgrowth into the joint spaces and surrounding tissues. Solomon’s Seal appears to “read” and correct these tension inbalances, working to repair injured tissues while leaving little or no scar tissue.
EFFECT ON SYNOVIAL FLUID
It is speculated that Solomon’s Seal stimulates the body to produce cortisone. A similar belief is that it acts on the synovial glands improving the production of synovial fluid and thus lubrication between cartilage-capped joints (knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, fingers, etc). This synovial fluid is slippery and somewhat viscous (it’s been described as “egglike”), and provides the lubrication so that the ever- moving joints do so freely and don’t abrade or wear at each other. Solomon’s Seal appears to resolve the sensation of friction, grinding, or clicking in joints.
In addition to merely lubricating the joints, Solomon’s Seal softens the outer surface of the cartilage. The joint itself is held in place by tendons, which connect bones and muscles, and ligaments, that connect the bones to bones. Synovial joints exist interdependently with the muscles that surround them. Not only do the joints respond to the will of the muscles, the muscles are also responsive to the goings on in the joints. In any case, the plant possesses a mucilagenous quality that coats and lubricates enflamed tissues while reducing friction and irritation. Solomon’s Seal also helps restore pliancy to tendons and ligaments by supplying moisture to them if they are atrophied. It is specifically indicated for tendonitis and other repetitive motion injuries.
Enhancing Solomon’s Seal’s Effectiveness with other Herbs
In our intense study and observation of Solomon’s Seal’s palliative effects on various conditions, we have been inspired to integrate its use with other esteemed healing herbs. In our Cortesia Solomon’s Seal Tincture, Formula #1 – Arthritis & Joint Repair, we have combined it with Gravel Root and Pleurisy Root. Gravel Root is specifically indicated for arthritis for it brings minerals into and out of solution, hence its use as a remedy to dissolve and remove deposits in joints. Pleurisy Root is indicated in cases of acute inflammation, arthritis, bursitis, lack of lubrication, or clicking in the joints.
Our Cortesia Solomon’s Seal Tincture, Formula #3 – Cartilage & Tissue Repair is integrated with the highly respected Horsetail plant. Horsetail’s high silica content helps to rebuild damaged cartilage and structures. It strengthens connective tissue, bones, cartilage, mucous membranes, arteries, skin, and other tissue.
Of course, straight Solomon’s Seal works to harmonize, feed, lubricate, and tighten or loosen (as needed) tendons, ligaments, attachments, and joints. It is also a valuable connective tissue anti-inflammatory, and is known to help moderate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. It has many other benefits described in other articles on our website and blog.
The Use of Solomon’s Seal Salve and Liniment to Reduce Inflammation & Pain
Reducing inflammation and soothing the pain of tendonitis can be done topically if a pain reliever has the ability to penetrate the skin barrier and contains anti-inflammatory agents. A topical formula will not only relieve pain or inflammation, but also dilate the blood vessels (if it contains natural menthol). This allows for relief of tendonitis, without causing any stiffening of the tissue.
Our Cortesia Solomon’s Seal Acute & Chronic Injury Salve is a very effective topical salve, especially when used with our Cortesia Quick Relief Liniment and Solomon’s Seal Tincture, or any of the above mentioned Solomon’s Seal formulas. The salve contains Arnica, Calendula, Comfrey, Horsetail, Mullein, St. John’s Wort and Solomon’s Seal root. Unlike most topicals, however, the herbal properties in our salve permeate deeply through the skin layers into the cellular level of affected tissues.
A good therapeutic liniment is invaluable for pain relief, inflammation and swelling. It is important that it also directs herbs to deeper tissue levels. Our Cortesia Quick Relief Liniment is formulated with the following ingredients (organic) for deep absorption: Witch Hazel, Isopropyl Alcohol, Solomon’s Seal, Comfrey, Calendula, St. John’s Wort, Rosemary, Arnica, Cayenne, Horsetail, Menthol. It can be used regularly during healing and is especially cost-effective for the comforting benefits it provides.
For further information and available products, please visit our website: http://www.solomonsseal.net.
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