What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis Elbow or its medical condition term, Lateral Epicondylitis is a repetitive strain injury associated with tightness and inflammation of the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle and tendon. Tendonitis of the common extensor muscle groups can lead to chronic tendinosis causing weak wrist extension, loss of grip strength and increased recovery time. Golfer’s Elbow is the opposite to Tennis Elbow on the inner medial side of the elbow and involves the flexors of the wrist.
Tennis Elbow Pain
Tennis Elbow can be very painful injury ranging from a dull ache to extreme sharp quality pain, but with treatment it can be curable. A patient often describes Tennis Elbow can feel like a dull ache at rest and sharp when using your hand. The pain location of Tennis Elbow is on the outside of the elbow where the tendon attaches just below the bone. Tennis Elbow pain can come and go in a cycle of recovery and flare ups. Tennis Elbow can hurt when using a mouse or caused by lifting up heavy objects. Tennis Elbow in both arms can occur however it is normally in the dominant side used the most. Tingling in the fingers can be present and often neck pain and shoulder pain exist with Tennis Elbow as well.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
There are many causes of symptoms of Tennis Elbow from overuse by lifting gym weights, mouse at the office, phone use, playing video games and most common in any repetitive hand occupation like barista, hairdresser, builder or guitar player. Pain in the wrist is often present referred by the extensor muscles of the forearm. Pain might be felt more at night due to inflammation. Management and recovery of symptoms can be achieved from your physical therapist over a period of 4 – 6 weeks. Radial Tunnel Syndrome presents very similar as Tennis Elbow and involves nerve entrapment or compression and needs to be ruled out as a differential diagnosis.
Tennis Elbow Exercises
By using a resistance band or TheraBand eccentric strengthening exercises can be performed to stabilise the condition and prevent reoccurrence. Light eccentric exercises are the safest exercises to do for Tennis Elbow when it’s not inflamed. These exercises should be performed once a day.
Use a TheraBand and take a seat.
Support your forearm on your thigh or the edge of a table so that your wrist hangs over the edge.
Hold the TheraBand in your hand with your palm facing up.
Raise your hand slowly, then lower it slowly. Your arm stays on your thigh as your hand bends up and down at the wrist.
Repeat 10 times.
When you have Tennis Elbow there are exercises you want to avoid mainly gripping and holding weights like dumbbells, barbells or kettlebells as this can aggravate the pain and symptoms.
Tennis Elbow Brace
Tennis Elbow braces helps to splint and support recovery from any acute inflammation of the elbow. There are a variety of Tennis Elbow straps, braces, compression sleeves available. You can find a Tennis Elbow Brace at Chemist Warehouse or online at Ebay or Amazon. If your in severe pain, braces can be worn for most of the day if only a dull ache less often is ideal. Best Tennis Elbow braces reviews for 2021.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
There are many treatment options of how to treat and to get rid of Tennis Elbow so it can be hard to know who to see. ‘As a medical Doctor might identify the injury, they can’t provide relief so treatment needs to be sought with a physical therapist who specialises with muscle conditions’ says Murray Kovesy Melbourne Myotherapist. Tennis Elbow can be a quick fix and often resolve with just rest however without rest it can get worse becoming chronic and take a long time to heal. On examination for Tennis Elbow testing can be done to physical assess the injury and severity of the condition. Finger pain when testing by resisting the 3rd digit into extension is a test to do for Tennis Elbow to diagnosis the condition.
Dry Needling – By using acupuncture needles directed at tender chronic trigger points provides great symptomatic relief helping to promote blood flow and healing of the area of the lateral elbow.
Massage Therapy – Focused trigger point massage by a Myotherapist or Remedial Massage Therapist is helpful for Tennis Elbow throughout recovery. Treatment is directed at muscles of the of the elbow, forearm and tendons to help fix Tennis Elbow symptoms of pain and weakness. Massage treatment needs adjusted and not too hard if the elbow is quite painful and acute. At home use of an exercise massage gun may provide relief.
Brace Strap Support - A Tennis Elbow brace works by offsetting the use of the common extensor tendons at the elbow joint to allow recovery time. Kinesiology tape may provide similar benefits as well in supporting the function of the muscles.
Ultrasound therapy – Might be helpful in the acute inflammatory stage if the tendon is slowly recovering and too tender to treat manually.
Cortisone Injection – Should only be used as a last resort to treating it alternatively with a physical therapist as it does break down good tissue in the process and can be harmful after 2 injections.
Heat or Ice – Using an ice-pack is great during flare ups or in the acute inflammatory stage placed directly at the elbow joint. Heat is beneficial in later stages when pain is mild or quite dull placed on the muscles or the forearm and not directly on the elbow.
Cream - Using an anti-inflammatory cream like fisiocrem or voltaren is the best option to use throughout the day at work to rub on the elbow for inflammation and pain relief.
Ergonomics - Getting a keyboard support or ergonomic mouse can help a lot to prevent ongoing pain and can help a lot in preventive the reoccurrence of Tennis Elbow.
Surgery - If the injury is not healing surgery is an option after investigation with ultrasound for muscle and tendon damage or x-ray for examining the bone for any fractures around the elbow joint. Surgery is very rare and might happen if there is a large permanent tear in the muscle or other bone or tendon complications involved.
Tennis Elbow Stretches
There are stretches for Tennis Elbow to relieve and prevent symptoms. Doing an forearm extensor stretch is performed.
Raise the arm straight out in front of the body.
With the palm facing down, slowly bend the wrist downwards.
Using the other hand, gently pull the stretching hand back towards the body.
Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
Straighten the wrist again.
Best Fix to Cure Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow is curable, it can take a long time to fully heal if it is not treated by a physical therapist and it becomes chronic however most are short term in duration. Recovery time is dependant on avoiding aggravating factors which might be related to occupation, exercise and sport. Once recovered you need to work on prevention so it doesn’t come back. If not treated early it can lead to ongoing affects in grip strength, atrophy of elbow muscles and tendon weakness and constant pain.