Tennis Elbow

What is it? 

Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a repetitive overuse injury that causes pain on the outer part of the elbow.

Signs and Symptoms

• Caused and aggravated by gripping actions and repetitive movements of the hand, wrist and elbow – for example – gripping and using a drill, turning a door handle, typing on a computer

• Can be particularly tender over the lateral epicondyle area

• Can cause referral pain from the outer part of the elbow to the forearm and right into the digits of the hand on the dorsal aspect.

• Character of the pain can range from tingling to a deep dull ache sensation in the forearm

• Can be stiff in the morning

Who gets it and why?

Tennis Elbow is a condition that often afflicts middle aged people. For example, people who take up strenuous activity/sport in their middle years can suddenly discover that, due to degeneration, their musculoskeletal system is unable to cope, as it once did, with the new demands placed upon it. This can lead to overexertion and microtears at the tendinous insertion at the elbow, causing pain and inflammation at and near the main site of injury.

Recovery and Prevention

Medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help in the short term along with adequate rest and avoidance of aggravating factors. To prevent reoccurrence, the patient should explore options that will address the cause. Surgery to rectify the problem should only be considered where calcification at the tendinous insertion is present and when more conservative options have first been exhausted, such as a course of physical therapy and targeted rehab exercises. One particular exercise that has shown good results is the following ‘Tyler Twist’ flexbar exercise. All exercises should be performed under the guidance of your physical therapist.

Prevention is better than cure. So you must look at the cause of your tennis elbow, for example:

• Review your ergonomic set up at your workstation if you feel that faulty work practises are to blame.

• Ensure good technique if you believe the injury is as a result of overexertion at tennis or other sport.

• Reduce working/playing time to allow the tissues of the forearm to recover. Take plenty of breaks.

How can physical therapy treatment help?

Diagnosis and Treatment

Physical therapy treatment is a reliable first port of call to get lasting relief from tennis elbow. Firstly your physical therapist will diagnose the condition using a selection of special tests. As with most soft tissue injuries, tennis elbow responds really well to direct hands-on physical therapy treatment. To prevent reoccurrence of injury, a course of treatment is recommended, with reassessment and progress checks taken at each session to ensure pain levels are reducing and full recovery is being made. Targeted exercises to stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles will be prescribed. To find out more about how physical therapy treatment can help, get in contact here.

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