Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do guitarists get tennis elbow?"
I practice about 4 hours a day. It sometimes starts hurting and doesn't stop for a day. Should I see a therapist?
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammatory process located in the outside part of the elbow (the thumb side of the elbow). It is essentially an overuse or strain injury. It is especially common in people who play sports that involves repeated extension of the hand at the wrist, but it can occur in anyone.
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There are many incidents of lateral epicondylitis in guitar players. The main symptoms of lateral epicondylitis include pain on the outside edge of the elbow, especially while extending the hand at the wrist. If you think you have lateral epicondylitis, you should see your primary care doctor. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis with a physical examination or suggest alternative diagnoses. If it turns out to be lateral epicondylitis, then the mainstay of treatment is resting the arm and avoiding repetitive motions (such as guitar playing for a while). Regularly taking anti inflammatory medications like naprosyn or ibuprofen can also help. Then, when symptoms are better, gradually and slowly ramping up physical activity decreases the risk that the symptoms will come back. If these basic measures do not help, there are other options, including physical therapy and the injection of medications directly into the area. Again, please discuss with your doctor for more information.
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