Getting to Grips with Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, or as it is known in medical terms, lateral epicondylagia, causes pain on the outer elbow due to tiny injuries to tendons and muscles around the elbow.

 

Tennis Elbow

What causes Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow occurs when the muscles on the top of the forearm are overused from repetitive movements, particularly twisting and gripping.

Repetitive twisting and gripping movements can cause tiny micro-tears in the tendon which leads to the pain you feel.

 

Who gets Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow mainly affects people between the age of 30 and 50, and women and men are affected equally.

You are more likely to get tennis elbow if your work or hobbies involve repeated twisting and gripping actions, such as gardening, tennis, carpenters, plasterers and other hand work industries.

Tennis elbow is more likely to occur if your forearm muscles are ‘unfit’.

If you suddenly increase your weight training in the gym, prune all the roses at once or you take on a DIY home project and not used to heavy work – this sudden overuse of the forearm muscles can bring on tennis elbow due to lack of conditioning to that particular activity.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

  • Pain when you use the muscles in your forearm or wrist, particularly with twisting and gripping actions such as; turning a door handle, opening a jar or using a screwdriver
  • Pain that travels down from the elbow towards the wrist
  • Tight muscles in your forearm
  • Difficulty gripping things like a knife and fork, writing with a pen or holding a mug
  • Weakness when using your hand
  • If your arm is particularly inflamed, you may have pain even without moving your arm, which can affect your sleep and wake you up at night.

What is the treatment?

Your physiotherapist can help to identify the cause of your pain, design a treatment plan and rehabilitation program to allow healing and restore strength.

To help reduce your pain, your physio can use the following techniques:

  • Acupuncture to help relax the tight muscles and aid healing
  • Ultrasound treatment to calm down any inflammation
  • Deep massage and trigger point therapy
  • Taping the elbow or providing an elbow brace to allow you to participate in your day-to-day activities while taking the stress off of your elbow
  • Advice of what to avoid, how to modify activities and some gentle exercises to start with.

Unfortunately, there is no magic overnight fix for tennis elbow.

If left untreated, it can last from anywhere from a few months and 2 years, but with physiotherapy you can start to see improvements after a few sessions.

What can YOU do at home to help your elbow?

  • Ice-packs on the sore area twice a day for ten minutes.
  • Anti-inflammatory tablets (check with your health professional before use)
  • Anti-inflammatory gels and self-massage of your extensor muscles (check with your health professional before use)
  • Compression bandages around your sore elbow.

More severe cases :

Other options for more severe cases may involve steroid injections, however with early intervention, you can significantly reduce the chance of this.