What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is the common name for lateral epicondylitis, an injury to the tendons on the outside of the elbow. This normally happens from repetitive strain or overuse of the area. Focussed stress where the tendon insert into the bone of the elbow are created as the muscles in the forearm combine to form the common extensor tendon. Damage can occur due to a single traumatic event, or over time due to repetitive stress and strain. The injury causes pain and inflammation around the elbow due to micro tears in the tendon. The injury will get worse if you continue doing the activity that triggers pain. Continual aggravation of the tendon can result in additional damage and even complete rupture of the tendon.
What causes Tennis Elbow?
Firstly, most patients who get tennis elbow are not tennis players. Any activity that excessively or repeatedly stresses the muscles that straighten the wrist and fingers can cause injury to the tendon. These include:
- Participation in racket sports
- Using a computer mouse and keyboard. Particularly if you have poor posture
- Manual occupation i.e. builder, carpentry, plumbing etc…
- Using musical instruments such as the guitar, piano or violin
- Pain and stiffness with bending and/or straightening the elbow.
- Pain on gripping the hand, picking up objects and opening jars
- Pain over the outside of the elbow, which may radiate further down the forearm.
- Grip weakness
What Treatment can I do at home?
You can help treat your symptoms at home, by following the suggestions below. The most important part of the treatment is to rest your injured tendon; you must stop or change the activity that is causing the problem.
- Improve your posture
- Improve your technique
- Changing grip size
- Have a work place assessment
- Strengthening exercises,*
- Stretching exercises*
- Eccentric loading of the tendon *
*your osteopath will discuss this with you.
Apply an ice pack to reduce the inflammation and pain. Apply the ice pack for approximately 10 minutes 2-3 times a day to the affected area. Ensure that you do not apply ice directly to the skin.
Preventing tennis elbow?
It is not always possible to stop 100% of cases from occurring, or prevent symptoms returning. However the follow will greatly reduce the risk.
- Keep the muscles in the forearm strong
- Keep the muscle supple
- Warm up before activities
- Stretch out after activities
- Try not to do the same activity for long periods of time; take regular breaks.
- If your job, sport or musical instrument requires repetitive fast movements , try to focus on relaxation within the forearm muscles.
- Seek advice early if you notice pain.