Tennis elbow is the term given to pain on the outside aspect of the elbow. It affects 3% of the population and generally those between the ages of 40 to 50. Though termed tennis elbow only 5 to10% of those affected play racquet sport.
The pain is usually related to activity involving combined loading of the wrist and elbow. The pain could be caused by a significant incident i.e. pain after hitting a late backhand tennis stroke. But more commonly it is an overuse injury due to repeated grasping, lifting or holding objects with the elbow straight. For example, using a mouse with the elbow straight, changing into first or third gear, or painting.
The pain is generally caused by a tendon as it attaches into the bone to the outside of the elbow. This tendon attaches a group of muscles to the bone that cause wrist extension. This is the position your wrist would be in if you were using a mouse. It is where this tendon inserts that excessive stress can cause it to become inflamed and painful.
Physiotherapy can help in treating a tennis elbow. First of all to alleviate the symptoms by directly treating the local inflammation. This can be done by:
- Soft tissue massage
- Kinesio taping techniques
But more importantly we can work out what are the causative factors and work out how to avoid or reduce them as well as advising you on strengthening the forearm. If you have a tennis elbow a tennis elbow strap which can be purchased from sports shops may be of benefit. The pain is caused by a tendon attachment on the outside of your elbow that has become inflamed and painful due to excessive stress.
It is also very important that you reduce activity that irritates the condition, or if the pain is constant, you need to rest and take anti-inflammatories. As the pain improves it is also important to start strengthening the muscle. A tennis elbow can be slow to settle but 70 to 80% of cases settle within 1 year.