What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, otherwise known as lateral epicondylalgia causes pain where the forearm muscles attach to the outside of the elbow. It effects the tendon of the muscles which extends into the back of the wrist and hand. People who suffer from tennis elbow often are in jobs requiring repetitive manual tasks. The peak incidence of this condition occurs between the ages of 35 and 50 and it usually affects the dominant arm.
What causes it?
The exact pathology underlying tennis elbow is still under some debate, however current evidence indicates that the disorder does not involve an inflammatory process but rather impairments to the pain and motor systems as well as changes to the structure of the tendon and muscle involved (called the extensor carpi radialis brevis). This process occurs when microscopic tears of the tendon are incompletely healed.
What does it feel like?
Symptoms are often provoked with gripping or twisting tasks such as opening jars or using a hammer. Very rarely is tennis involved at all! Most patients report feeling a sharp pain through the outside of the elbow but a dull ache can also be felt into the forearm.
How can tennis elbow be treated?
There are a number of factors which need to be addressed to effectively manage tennis elbow, including:
- Avoidance of aggravating factors
- Correction of poor grip position
- Physiotherapy treatment modalities including: ultrasound, joint mobilisation, dry needling, massage and exercise prescription (exercises help to restore tendon health)
- Bracing if pain is very irritable (your physiotherapist can fit you with an appropriate brace to offload the affected muscle)
Most individuals respond to simple management of tennis elbow given enough time, however, there is a portion of tennis elbow sufferers that do not respond to treatment and alternative methods of medical management may be required. Such methods may include cortisone injection or autologous blood injection.