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1. Let's Talk Tennis Injuries - Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, known as lateral epicondylitis in technical terms, is a condition that results from overuse of the muscles and tendons in the elbow. Resulting from repetitive strain caused by activities that involve loaded and repeated gripping and twisting, it is common in those who play racket sports, hence the name tennis elbow. However, despite the name, only 5% of people suffering with the condition actually play tennis! In this article we will discuss what to look out for and how to manage tennis elbow with the help of a sports therapist.

What is Tennis Elbow?

As outlined above, tennis elbow, AKA lateral epicondylitis, describes an overuse injury to the tendons on the outside of the elbow. These tendons come from the muscles called the extensors, which act to flex the wrist. These tendons all insert onto one point, which will usually be the most painful point. Overuse of the muscles and tendons in the forearm with repetitive contractions/manual tasks can put too much strain on these tendons, causing them to become inflamed and cause pain.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is often attributed to repetitive activities using the hand/arm, including: using a computer, heavy lifting and sporting movements. Jobs such as electricians, plumbers and desk-based workers commonly present with this condition, due to the repetitive one-sided nature of work. Sports that require repetitive gripping and twisting of the forearm are more susceptible to developing tennis elbow

What symptoms to look out for?

Some key things to look out for if you are having pain on the outside of the elbow to help diagnose tennis elbow are:

  • Pain affecting the outside of the elbow, which may radiate down the forearm or up towards the shoulder

  • You may notice some grip strength weakness and pain when carrying things in your hand, especially with the elbow straightened. This includes raising a cup, carrying plates and several other everyday activities

  • Pain exacerbated by repeated gripping and twisting motions and usually eased by rest

  • Onset of elbow pain after doing something different - this could be using new equipment, a change in technique or an increase in workload

A sports therapists’ assessment will usually reveal point tenderness to the outside of the elbow, reduced grip strength in the affected arm, painful and weak resisted movements of the wrist and maybe some decreased range of motion secondary to pain/weakness/tightness. There are several special tests that a sports therapist can carry out to help diagnose tennis elbow.

How do we Manage Tennis Elbow?

The main aim of rehabilitation, first of all, is to manage pain and increase load tolerance of the affected tendons. This means that, ideally, we do not want to stop all activities but instead perhaps alter techniques and/or reduce the workload. This condition can be quite painful, so a sports therapist can tailor a pain-management plan and select appropriate treatment techniques such as massage and dry needling throughout the course of symptoms. Reducing pain will allow us to work the tendon a little bit more to complete effective rehabilitation. 

There is lots of evidence that exercise is one of the most effective ways to treat tennis elbow. These exercises include eccentric strengthening of the forearm muscles. This means that the muscle is working to slowly control a weight, for example, rather than a normal repetition of an exercise. It is important that exercises are not progressed too quickly, and this is where a sports therapist plays a vital role in assessing and prescribing exercise according to your symptoms. Stretching is also a key part of tennis elbow rehabilitation.

Tennis elbow symptoms can last for quite a long time, with 89% of people recovering within 1 year, but often can take months to settle down and get back to normal. Getting the right advice and treatment is essential!

Here at SV Sports Therapy, we can help everyone dealing with tennis elbow by assessing their individual needs, using a variety of treatment methods and providing bespoke rehabilitation and management plans to get them safely back to normal activities, whether this be tennis or the day job!

Give us a call to book in with Emily on 02034944343 or email or you can also book online here.

She's a dab hand at Tennis and would love to serve you!


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