Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common elbow overuse problem that is likely to affect around 40 percent of the population at some point in our lives. And certainly from my clinical experience, I don’t think I’ve ever treated a tennis player for this type of problem; it’s usually the office worker or manual worker who is lifting and gripping a lot.
The injury is mainly due to an overuse of the wrist extensor muscles since the condition is actually an extensor tendinopathy: it affects the tendons that extend the wrist joint and attach to the outside of your elbow, known as the common extensor origin. There are a few tendons that can be involved, the most notable being the extensor carpi radialis brevis and extensor carpi radialis longus. Most literature states that the constant overuse of these tendons results in repetitive microtrauma to the extensor tendons, which in turn causes local inflammation and pain. This overload can occur from racquet sports, typing at the computer, gardening, or any tasks that involve repetitive wrist extension.
Risk factors for tennis elbow:
- Manual occupation or office worker
- Aged between 30-50 years old
- Taking part in a lot of racquet sports but with poor technique
Pain associated with tennis elbow will be concentrated on the outside of the elbow and can radiate into the forearm and wrist. Due to the pain and weakness it may be difficult to:
- Shake hands on grip hold of an object
- Turn a doorknob or handle
- Hold a cup of tea or lift a kettle
- Pain to touch the outside of the elbow or to bump against the area
How do we treat tennis elbow?
Firstly, I should mention that 80-90% of people with tennis elbow make a full recovery within one to two years and physiotherapy is recommended as the first line of conservative management.
Physiotherapy can assess your elbow and upper limb to find the cause, provide activity modification advice, prescribe appropriate rehabilitation exercises and manual therapy to provide pain relief. Your physiotherapist can also assist in giving advice regarding your work set up or sporting equipment. While no one treatment modality is proven to be effective entirely on its own, a combination of both mobilisation and exercise may reduce pain and improve function.
If you want some helpful advice or treatment for any persistent tennis elbow injury then come and see one of our experienced members of staff at JMC Physiocures, 01236 425 661 or 07808 552 520.
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