Chances are that you are doing one or the other and probably not both.
Am I correct?
The answer to whether you should be doing them at all is much more complicated than you would think and …
Can be trickier than most people even realize.
Whether or not to use ice or heat for tennis elbow injuries is highly contested depending on who you talk too.
Be sure to read this article to the very end because I’m going to give you the hands down, straight up facts, pros and cons of doing both for your tennis elbow condition.
This is not only from my only personal experience and battle with tennis elbow but what I will reveal to you is based on sound medical research to help you recover from your injury as fast and quickly as possible.
You should already know that tennis elbow impacts the outer part of your elbow and upper forearm region.
This injury occurs when you forearm extensor muscles are overworked and become strained from doing repeated tasks using your arm that involved constant extending of your wrist.
Due to the strain on the forearm muscles, they shorten and you feel a tightness and pain at the attachment point of your muscle and tendon at the outer elbow, aka the lateral epicondyle.
Overtime, this tendon can start to inflame, swell, become irritated and even tear.
Here’s the thing:
Most individuals are unaware to the fact that they can even get tennis elbow when they don’t even play tennis.
The fact remains that you are ten times more likely to get tennis elbow from doing everyday repetitive tasks or activities than you are from playing tennis or any other racquet sport.
So once you have – what should you immediately do – apply ice or heat to your elbow?
When you suffer an injury such as tennis elbow, it is very common to experience inflammation or swelling especially within the first couple of weeks.
This is totally normal and this inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing.
When you suffer any sort of muscle or tendon injury, your body’s natural defenses invoke an inflammatory response.
That’s just the way it is programmed!
This is not only to protect your damaged muscles and tissues but this is actually the first stages of the healing process.
Yes that’s right – inflammation and swelling is part of the healing and recovery process.
So does it make sense to apply ice to your elbow to fight off your body’s natural defenses and potentially stop the healing process?
Yes and no.
The reason I say “Yes” is because I think icing your elbow can help with pain relief, instead of popping pain medication every few hours.
I’m saying “No” because you want your body’s own defenses to be as strong as possible because you will need all the help you can get to overcome your tennis elbow injury completely.
Inflammation and swelling simply means that your elbow has poor blood circulation and tissues in that area are traumatized.
The challenge sometimes is to decipher whether or not you have any inflammation.
Some individuals think that their elbow is swollen because it feels spongy to the touch.
This is not really something you should use as a guide.
If you can’t visible see the swelling, then there is probably none at all.
So in the end the only real benefit to icing is for pain control.
If you do apply ice, you should only do so for no longer than 15 minutes.
Remember to first put the ice in a bag, then some form of barrier such as a tea towel or facecloth.
Only then should you apply the ice.
NEVER apply ice directly to your skin.
This can cause irreversible skin and tissue damage.
What about applying heat to your elbow?
The application of heat to any part of your body improves blood flow to that area.
And when it comes to repetitive strain injuries that affect the tendons, such as tennis elbow (lateral extensor tendon), you need as much blood as you can get.
Tendons do not receive a good supply of blood to begin with.
And when they become irritated or damaged, a steady supply of new, healthy, fresh blood, which is full of nutrients and minerals, is exactly what you need to heal.
It is vital that if you want to recover completely from tennis elbow that you elbow tissues are constantly receiving fresh blood.
Applying heat to your elbow will flood your elbow with this new blood and help flush out stagnate, old blood that has been pooling in your elbow.
In turn, the heat will also help relax your forearm muscles, which are often tight and restricted.
This will help with any stiffness or decrease in range of motion that you may be experiencing.
Heat can help decrease your elbow pain and stiffness and even when you find it difficult to extend your affected arm fully.
But just like ice for tennis elbow, heat can have its drawbacks and dangers as well.
Applying heat to your elbow for too long can cause tissue damage.
Just like ice, you should only apply heat to your elbow for no longer than 15 minutes at a time.
Any longer than that and you run the risk of causing further damage to your already injured elbow.
Remember to never sleep with a hot water bottle or heat pad applied to any part of your body, and yes that goes for your elbow as well.
Hot water bottles, cherry stone bags and even electronic heating pads are your best options for applying heat to your affected elbow.
Check out this interesting article on ice vs heat – what’s best when treating your injury.
What about topical heat rubs, gels, sports creams or icy/hot patches- are they the same as using a heating pad or hot water bottle?
No not at all.
You can walk into any pharmacy and purchase these over the counter creams and rubs.
They are marketed and promoted to help soothe pain from muscle related sprains, strains and injuries.
What they really do is distract the sufferers attention away from their pain and discomfort by producing a heating effect on the skin.
The bottom line:
It’s just as well you rub olive oil on your skin, it has about the same effect – and won’t help your injury heal any faster.
So now that you know that both ice and heat can be beneficial in the short term when it comes to tennis elbow, there is something else you should know!
And this will be the turning point for you and your recovery from your injury.
If you do not start a rehab program for your tennis elbow condition, you may never fully recover.
Sure taking time away will give you temporary relief but …
If you are like most tennis elbow sufferers, you go around in circles.
One week your elbow feels fine, the next week you can hardly grip a coffee mug.
If this sounds like you, then don’t you think it’s time you finally got serious about getting rid of your tennis elbow once for all?
Here’s the kicker!
You don’t need any sort of medical gadgets or exercise equipment to overcome your injury.
Forget wasting money on Physical Therapy when you there is an easier and much more effective way …
And the best part …
You can heal and recover with incredible speed from the comfort of your own home.
Go here to learn 5 simple steps that you can do at home in your spare time and finally put an end to your elbow pain and misery.