Tennis Elbow is a general term used to describe pain on the outside of the elbow. The most common causes are inflammation or degeneration of the tendon of the wrist extensor muscles as they insert into the elbow.
Those engaged in strenuous sports such as tennis, climbing, swimming and those working primarily where the forearms are involved, such as waiters or musicians playing the guitar, are most vulnerable to this kind of injury. Repeating some types of activities over and over again can put too much strain on the elbow tendons.
Acute injuries occur immediately after an activity such as hitting a backhand shot in tennis with poor technique. The extensor muscles on the back of the forearm (wrist extensors) become suddenly overloaded causing micro tears of the tendon where it attaches to the elbow.
Chronic injuries on the other hand normally develop over a period of days/weeks and usually follow bouts of intense exercise/activity that the patient is unaccustomed to, such as lifting heavy boxes when moving house.
The injury can be very troublesome to treat, especially if it becomes chronic, so it is very important to obtain an accurate diagnosis as early as possible. Physiotherapy treatment for this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and reduce the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may include:
- The use of a tennis elbow brace
- Joint mobilisation
- Dry needling
- Ice or heat treatment
- Progressive exercises to improve flexibility, strength & posture
- Training and activity modification advice
- Soft tissue massage
- Technique correction
- Anti-inflammatory advice
- Devising and monitoring an appropriate return to sport or activity plan