Tennis elbow. It’s a name most of us have heard at one stage or another. We more than likely know someone who has had it.
Like a lot of injuries, we see day to day, however, it’s often misdiagnosed. Often this is self-diagnosed or from a friend, family member or coach. This is seen time and again with injuries like sciatica, rotator cuff injuries, disc bulges and jumpers knee. With tennis elbow, it’s no different.
People come in every week with ‘tennis elbow’ often though it’s more a generalised pain around the elbow. It’s important to differentiate this pain from such things as nerve entrapment, golfers elbow, muscle strain, ligament tears or joint immobility.
Before we delve into how we can do this and the factors that can cause tennis elbow it’s important to dispel a myth.
You don’t have to be a tennis player or have ever even played tennis to have tennis elbow. Truth be told that is more the lay name. Its clinical name is lateral epicondylalgia or lateral epicondylitis.
A quick anatomy lesson for you. We have two areas of our humorous bone (condyles) where tendons attach onto in our elbow one on the inside (medial) and one on the outside (lateral). The terms -itis and -algia describe inflammation or break down of the integrity of the tendon.
The typical client will present to us with:
- Pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow
- A dull ache that has progressed over a few weeks/months
- An increasing weakness with particular tasks (lifting a jug, opening a door, shaking a hand)
- The pain lingers after an aggravating task for a couple of hours
This onset is usually due to a rapid increase in load eg you have played tennis for the first time in a long time, started the gym rapidly with a lot of arm exercises, been doing handy work/gardening around the house which is outside of the normal tasks you do. The other main aggravator is a change in equipment eg new grip on your tennis racquet/golf clubs, a new hammer/drill handle if you are a builder.
So how is it managed?
After the diagnosis is confirmed we need to find out what the aggravating factor was and look to modify the load as best we can.
At the same time, it’s important to strengthen the area to increase the tensile strength or the tendon to prevent reinjury. One commonly overlooked area is the shoulder.
A lack of strength and stability around the shoulder leads to overload in the elbow. This can actually be the initial cause of the tendon overload.
These exercises will be different for everyone depending on the level of activity and future demands. There is no one size fits all for your tennis elbow physio treatment.
There are multiple other treatment options that can be used including, bracing, massage, acupuncture, taping, economic training, nerve mobility exercises and more. Obviously, this is dependent on having a thorough examination from a skilled physio and mapping out the best treatment plan.
If you or someone you know is suffering from what you might think is tennis elbow we would love to have a look at it for you.
Book a time below to see one of our experienced team. Located in the heart of Spring Hill, close to the CBD and with ample free parking. We look forward to helping you get back to your pain-free best.
Spring Physio and Rehab is proud to be part of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and the choose.physio movement. Physio is the GP’s number one most recommended therapy.