For the past few months I’ve been struggling with tennis elbow. You might think this is odd because I don’t even play tennis anymore. However, I do mountain bike and lift weights. These type of activities are just some of the many physical stressors that can lead to tennis elbow.

Tennis elbow is basically an inflammation of an area on the outside of the elbow where some tendons attach to the bone. If you pull hard enough or work the tendon in the same way over and over again, the bone near the tendon and the tendon itself become irritated. This results in pain.

The pain can be aching or sharp and is often made worse by certain movements. For example, if you try to lift an object with your hand facing downward rather than upward, that particular tendon will be stretched and immediate discomfort is the result.

What helps? Well, for starters rest and for those gym rats that actually means complete rest. No, just lifting 10 or 20 pounds is not complete rest. Core exercises and isolated lower body moves can of course continue. Ice the area for about 20 minutes then massage the muscles on the outside of the elbow. Ibuprofen will help reduce the swelling and pain. Gentle stretches with the elbow completely straight and the hand turned downward toward the elbow are good.

If these measures don’t work a steroid shot around the inflamed bone might just do the trick. Too many steroid shots will weaken and even cause rupture of a tendon.

After the pain disappears start gentle exercises as directed by your physical therapist or doctor. Be patient-sometimes it takes a few months to return to normal.