"Tennis elbow" is a common term for a condition caused by overuse of arm and forearm muscles that results in elbow pain. You don't have to play tennis to get this, but the term came into use because it can be a significant problem for some tennis players.
Tennis elbow is caused by either abrupt or subtle injury of the muscle and tendon area around the outside of the elbow. Tennis elbow specifically involves the area where the muscles and tendons of the forearm attach to the outside bony area (called the lateral epicondyle) of the elbow. Your doctor may call this condition lateral epicondylitis. Another common term, "golfer's elbow," refers to the same process occurring on the inside of the elbow -- what your doctor may call medial epicondylitis. Overuse injury can also affect the back or posterior part of the elbow as well.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
- Pain about 1-2 cm down from bony area at the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle)
- Weakness in the wrist or forearm even with simple tasks such as opening a door handle or shaking hands with someone.
- Pain on the outside of the elbow when the wrist is extended against resistance.
- Pain when pressing, just below the lateral epicondyle on the outside of the elbow.
- Pain slowly increasing around the outside of the elbow. Less often, pain may develop suddenly.
- Pain is worse when shaking hands or squeezing objects.
- Pain is made worse by stabilizing or moving the wrist with force. Examples include lifting, using tools, opening jars, or even handling simple utensils such as a toothbrush or knife and fork.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is often caused by overuse or repetitive strain caused by repeated extension (bending back) of the wrist against resistance. This may be from activities such as tennis, badminton or squash but is also common after periods of excessive wrist use in day-to-day life
- A poor backhand technique in tennis.
- A racket grip that is too small.
- Strings that are too tight.
- Playing with wet, heavy balls.
- Repetitive activities such as using a screwdriver, painting or typing.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
No single treatment has been shown to be totally effective, however a combination of the treatments below are known to resolve tennis elbow over time. Each individual will react differently to different treatments.
- Apply ice or cold therapy to the elbow (15 mins up to six times a day)
- Rest - an extremely important component in the healing of this injury.
Our sports therapy might involve:
- Rule out neural (nerve) involvement
- Apply ultrasound or laser treatment to help reduce pain and inflammation as well as stimulate healing.
- Wear a brace or support to protect the tendon whilst healing and strengthening.
- Use manual treatments such as massage therapy, myofacial release and/or transverse friction techniques across the tendon
- Try acupuncture which has been shown to be extremely effective for tennis elbow.
- Advise on rehabilitation to return the athlete to full fitness.
- Provide advice on neural stretching exercises if nerve tissue involvement is suspected
- As with all soft tissue injuries a comprehensive>rehabilitation program should be carried out.