Updated: Aug 3, 2021
What is tennis elbow?...What causes it?...and how to fix it?...Read on to find out!
Ouch... Why is my elbow hurting?
Tennis elbow is one of the most common causes of elbow pain. The pain is usually on the outside of your elbow and can vary in frequency and intensity depending on the person and the extent of damage.
So, what exactly is tennis elbow?
Well, the term 'tennis elbow' itself is actually the everyday wording for a very common injury called 'lateral epicondylitis'. Now, lateral epicondylitis is pretty much the damage and inflammation of tendons in our elbow that connect our forearm muscles to the outside of our elbow.
These forearm muscles are long and travel all the way down our forearm into our hand and fingers. We use them whenever we are using our wrist, hand, elbow and especially when we are gripping.
Ok... well I don't play tennis... so what has caused my tennis elbow pain?
It may come as a shock to you, but tennis is not the only cause of tennis elbow. In fact, it's not even one of the most common causes of tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is simply caused by the overuse of your lateral (outside) forearm muscles and tendons. When we suddenly increase our overuse and overstress of these muscles and tendons we begin to develop micro-tears that increase with time. As these micro-tears worsen, we eventually develop pain and inflammation and thus tennis elbow.
Therefore, almost any activity that has led to you suddenly overusing your forearm muscles and tendons can cause your tennis elbow pain. This includes sports with regular gripping like tennis, squash, badminton, and weightlifting. But also jobs and certain leisure activities that involve lots of wrist and hand work such as painters, plumbers, carpenters, cleaners, and many more.
Also, as we age our tendons go through phases where they weaken or degenerate. This process can mean a greater risk of developing tennis elbow (even without a change in use) as our tendons are more easily overworked due to becoming weaker.
Hmm... so how do I fix my tennis elbow pain?
Well, it is relieving to note that around roughly 90% of people with tennis elbow have great success in fixing their problem conservatively, meaning without any need for surgery or injections.
A few simple things you can begin at home to treat your tennis elbow pain include:
* Resting your injured hand and arm.
* Cold and/or heat therapy.
* Over the counter anti-inflammatories and pain medications.
* Gentle forearm stretches and movement exercises.
In some cases tennis elbow may be mild to moderate and last only a few days or even a few weeks and just go away on its own with the above home treatment. HOWEVER, if this is not happening for you or if the pain is high, then it's definitely time to seek help from a professional like us!
Physiotherapists' specialise in these types of injuries and are able to accurately assess, diagnose and treat your elbow pain.
To fix your tennis elbow, your physiotherapy treatment will usually include:
* Identifying, reducing and or modifying your causing factors (rest). * Use of anti-inflammatory medications.
* Specific advice and education on simple self-management strategies to accelerate healing and reduce pain.
* Use of brace or tapping to offload tendons (if necessary)
* 'Hands on' manual therapies to reduce pain, swelling, stiffness and accelerate healing and tissue repair.
* Individually tailored prescription of effective and progressive exercises to strengthen and stretch the weak, tight and damaged muscles and tendons. This step is vital and helps to fix the problem properly and prevent it from returning.
If you yourself are struggling with tennis elbow or are having elbow pain and aren't quite sure if it is tennis elbow or not... then give us a call or book online for a consultation with a professional.
Usually the earlier you address tennis elbow pain, the quicker your recovery!
By: Adam Fracassi (Physiotherapy Recovery Clinic Concord)