What Is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a condition in which the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender at the lateral epicondyle. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from repetitive overuse. This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.
Who Is Affected?
You don’t have to be a tennis player to suffer from tennis elbow. It is caused by the repetitive movements and the gripping actions common in tennis hence the term ‘tennis’ elbow. However, it may also occur in other activities requiring repetitive gripping actions. Tennis elbow can therefore stem from daily activities such as using scissors, cutting meat, carrying grocery bags, gardening, manual work that involves repetitive turning or lifting of the wrist, such as plumbing, or bricklaying, and typing.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
If you have pain in your forearm, you might be suffering from tennis elbow. We see this injury all the time, even in people who haven’t played tennis a day in their life! That’s why we’re offering a guide to help you treat and prevent this common condition.
You may notice pain:
- on the outside of your upper forearm, just below the bend of your elbow
- when lifting or bending your arm
- when gripping small objects, such as a pen
- when twisting your forearm, such as turning a door handle or opening a jar
A physical therapist can help you with many of these things listed below which can reduce the chance of you having an ankle injury this season!
- General physical fitness, jogging or cycling. Injuries often happen when you are getting tired
- Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of training
- Undertaking flexibility, balance, stretching and strengthening exercises in weekly training programmes
Tennis elbow should be diagnosed by a physical therapist or doctor. A history is taken and tests performed. Referred pain from the neck and reduced nerve mobility can mimic tennis elbow. The physical therapist must check your neck and clear it from any involvement in your elbow pain. An ultrasound scan or MRI are the best tests to identify tendon damage, but are often not necessary
Physical or manual therapy treatments than can help include:
- Massage therapy to relieve pain and stretch tight muscles and structures
- Manual therapy can mobilise joints in the elbow and around the neck to ensure normal function
- Taping and braces are beneficial in reducing pain in the elbow and supporting the muscles when you return to sport
- Ice and ultrasound therapy may be used to reduce inflammation. n Dry needling can also be effective for pain relief, releasing trigger points in the muscle and promoting tissue healing
- Exercise therapy should be prescribed to strengthen and balance the muscles of the forearm. While stretches help to lengthen tight muscles.
Your Rehabilitation Programme
This exercise programme has specific exercises to strengthen muscles around your elbow as well as improve muscle balance and flexibility in your forearm. In order to achieve proper rehabilitation of your injury it is important to ensure the exercises are performed with good technique. Poor practice may place potential strain on your injury.
Your therapist will advise you on the speed you should progress on the strengthening/movement control programme. Progression is not just about being able to do the exercise but to do it correctly, with appropriate control. Remember poor practice leads to poor performance and potential strain on your injury. If at any time you feel pain or discomfort stop the exercises and consult your therapist.