What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is also known as golfers elbow, shooter’s elbow, archer’s elbow or simply lateral elbow pain, and is a condition where the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender.
While the common name “tennis elbow” suggests a strong link to racquet sports, this condition is most commonly seen in two groups of people:
People who work with their hands are at greater risk of developing tennis elbow. Jobs that may lead to tennis elbow include plumbers, painters, gardeners, waiters, carpenters and even musicians like guitar players.
Sports participants, especially racquet sport players, are prone to developing tennis elbow. In addition to racquet sports, tennis elbow is seen in golfers, fencers, swimmers and climbers.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
- Pain over the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle)
- Pain when lifting objects and cocking back the wrist
- Pain from gripping and grasping objects and movements of the wrist
- Pain from activities that use the muscles that extend the wrist (back hand shot, pouring a container of liquid, lifting with the palm down as well as activities of daily living)
- Painful grip while shaking hands or turning a door knob
- Pain radiating down the forearm
- Weakness of the forearm
- Point tenderness over the lateral epicondyle
- Morning stiffness
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury. The pain associated with this condition usually has a gradual onset but it may also come on suddenly as a consequence of a trauma such as a direct blow to the epicondyle, a sudden forceful pull, or forceful extension. The acute pain that a person might feel occurs when they fully extend their arm.
The onset of tennis elbow can be the result of a combination of various factors like:
- repetitive movements with either high intensity or poor technique, poor equipment or a combination of these
- poor shoulder stability/ control often resulting from poor posture at work and/ or during activities. This also includes restrictions of movement resulting from old scar tissue and adhesions in other part of the body
- irritation of the Radial nerve due to problems at the cervical spine (often posture related)
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Treatment for Tennis Elbow
Treatments at PhysioDurham always aim to solve problems from the root.
Your experienced physiotherapist will thoroughly assess you focusing not only on your elbow but also the whole body and the biomechanics of you neck, trunk and arm in relation to your daily activities and your actual and past medical history.
Treatment usually includes mobilisation and manipulation of soft tissue and joints, electrotherapy, kinesio taping, stretching and strengthening exercises for the arm, shoulder, neck and core.
Your physio will create an exercise program specific to you and if requested we can assess the workstation or the position of your car seat. A parallel treatment with a fully qualified acupuncturist can be suggested to support the healing of chronic conditions.
In some cases, the severity of tennis elbow symptoms mend without any treatment within six to twenty-four months. However, Tennis elbow left untreated can lead to chronic pain that degrades quality of daily living.
Tennis Elbow Prevention
Decrease the amount of playing time if already injured or feeling pain in outside part of the elbow.
Stay in overall good physical shape.
Strengthen the muscles of the forearm: (Pronator quadratus, Pronator teres, and Supinator muscle) — the upper arm: (biceps, triceps, Deltoid muscle) — and the shoulder and upper back (lower trapezius). Increased muscular strength increases stability of joints such as the elbow.
Like other sports, use equipment appropriate to your ability, body size and muscular strength.
It is rarely an overnight cure.
Medication & Supports
Typical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) relieve lateral elbow pain in the short term, however they provide no improvements in functional outcome.
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