Lateral Epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow is a common injury which causes pain on the outside of the elbow during hand and wrist movements.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is an injury to the muscle tendon unit in the arm which is used to extend the wrist and fingers. Usually, the main pain presents where the tendon attaches to the bony lump on the outside of your elbow. The pain is often localised to the tendon of this muscle as you pull the wrist back or load the hand and wrist with gripping movements of the hand.
You don’t have to play tennis to have tennis elbow, however, it is common in tennis players. Any repetitive task using the hands and wrist can result in this injury, such as office work and manual labour. Usually it occurs when there is a sudden increase in training load either by beginning an activity following a period of relative inactivity or increasing an existing training load too quickly.
The Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
The most common symptom of tennis elbow is a pain when extending the fingers and wrist and performing gripping tasks. There can also be a pain when the muscles are stretched. Tennis elbow also causes tenderness on the bony area of the elbow.
Other symptoms of tennis elbow may include stiffness in the elbow and forearm, weakness, swelling, redness and limited ability to grip altogether. If there are pins and needles in conjunction with other tennis elbow symptoms this can be an indication of some concurrent nerve irritation.
Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
A proper diagnosis by a qualified physiotherapist is important to receive the correct treatment. Occasionally other conditions present with similar symptoms, such as referred neck pain which can mimic tennis elbow.
It is very important to have the neck assessed by a physio to identify what is contributing to your symptoms. It is always important to ensure that a patient receives a correct diagnosis from the outset to get the most out of treatment.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
The first step your physiotherapist will take is to determine if the pain is caused by tennis elbow. As previously mentioned, this is important as there are other conditions which may present with similar symptoms. Once there is a diagnosis, your physio will determine how severe the injury is and what has caused it. Your physio will also test your grip and muscle strength.
Physio for tennis elbow may also include tests to determine the patient’s posture, muscle tightness and joint stiffness which may be contributing to the pain. Treatment can include strengthening exercises, stretching exercises, massage, use of a brace or dry needling. Your physio may also suggest lifestyle changes such as changes to grip techniques of tools or rackets, posture improvements and healthy workspace setup. Your physiotherapist may also setup a suitable training load plan to guide you through a return to activity, reducing the risk of ‘flare ups’.
Physio for tennis elbow is an effective treatment which aims to:
- Repair tissue
- Reduce pain
- Improve muscle strength
- Restore normal joint range of motion
- Restore normal muscle length
Tennis elbow is a painful condition due to irritation of the muscle tendon unit which is responsible for the movement of the fingers and wrist. The pain is often located on the bony lump on the outside of the elbow and is caused by repetitive gripping or manual tasks of the upper limb. Physio is a very effective tennis elbow treatment and may include a variety of techniques such as massage, muscle strengthening, dry needling and bracing. Physio for tennis elbow will help to reduce pain, improve strength and improve the joint’s range of motion.