Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) is the most common type of elbow pain and affects the lateral epicondyle. The epicondyle is the bony protuberance on the outer side of the elbow.
Several long slender muscles of the forearm assist in manipulating, gripping and lifting objects with the hand. Their tendons attach to the lateral epicondyle. This point of attachment is susceptible to injury.
Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
In Tennis Elbow, pain often has a gradual onset. It may be felt as a dull ache. Sharp twinges may result from lifting or carrying heavy objects. Pain may be felt during of following prolonged wrist or elbow positions, for example when using a mouse or keyboard. Gripping objects tightly may also reproduce the pain.
The lateral epicondyle is usually very tender when pressed. The muscles in the back of the forearm, which extend the fingers and wrist are often found to be tight, especially extensor digitorum longus and extensor carpi ulnaris. Grip strength may be reduced.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Contrary to popular belief Tennis Elbow is not always caused by playing tennis. It can also be the result of a recent increase in any activity which involves repetitive, sudden, awkward or forceful movements of the wrists or fingers. Injury may be caused by a single sudden movement against resistance. Even more frequently though, it’s related to prolonged positions or repetitive minor strains.
Tennis elbow has become more common due to the use of computers and mobile phone. Poor ergonomics and postural issues are often causative factors.
Recent research suggests that Tennis Elbow may be caused by micro trauma to the tissues. Damage may occur at the point of attachment of these tendons to the bone or at the point where the fibres of several muscle merge to form a common tendon.
How We Can Help
Physiotherapy is usually the first step. It’s important to identify the cause of the pain. Activities may need to be temporarily modified so that strain on the area can be reduced.
At Free2Move we often use modalities such as low level laser therapy, trigger point dry needling (a western form of acupuncture), and specific massage techniques such as cross frictions. We also teach you stretches and self massage techniques you can do yourself, to help you recover in the fastest possible time. Care is needed with gripping, lifting and carrying. Strapping with stretchy kinesio tape is often effective in decreasing load on the tendon and reducing pain.
If you have had the pain for more than 6 weeks, it’s important to determine whether you actually have tendonitis or tendinosis. Imaging with ultrasound or MRI can help assess the extent of tissue damage and its location. Physios in Perth are now permitted to refer you for these tests.