What is it?
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis or extensor tendinopathy, is one of the most common elbow injuries we see at Active Answers Physio. Most often this injury is due to the overuse of the muscles that extend the wrist.
These extensor muscles have a common attachment to the bony prominence (the lateral epicondyle) on the outside of the elbow. This is why the bone on the outside of the elbow can become very painful and inflamed. The pain can also radiate down the forearm.
It is also very important that we screen the neck as well as performing the appropriate nerve tension tests. These structures can also refer pain into the elbow and need to be ruled out to reach an accurate diagnosis and achieve the best treatment result.
- Tenderness to touch the outside of the elbow
- Pain with resisted wrist and/or finger extension
- Pain and weakness with grip strength (eg, turning on a tap, opening a jar, hand shake)
- Pain and/or tightness when stretching the forearm muscles
Overuse from a range of activities (not only tennis) that involves frequent wrist or elbow movements:
- Racquet sports (tennis, golf, squash, hockey)
- Throwing sports (cricket, water polo, softball, baseball)
- Computer use
- Heavy lifting
- Using tools which involve gripping
Early management involves minimising the aggravating movements or activities and a gradual strength exercise program. Maintaining exercise is very important, however this needs to be monitored and specific to increasing the strength of the tendon. This will be discussed with your physiotherapist at the initial session.
Gradual progression of exercise and load is the key. Because the tendon has been overloaded leading to this injury, it is vital that we accurately prescribe the appropriate amount to allow the tendon time to heal and increase strength without causing increased pain.
This is one of the reasons why recovery of this injury can take up to 6 months.
While strengthening the tendon is an important part of the rehabilitation, it is often used in combination with other physiotherapy modalities such as soft tissue massage, taping, bracing and dry needling.
If you are experiencing elbow pain and having trouble getting on top of it, call 9907 9667 or book online for one of our Seaforth Physio's to help you out.
Written by Physiotherapist Michael Gilbert