Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition that affects the tendons on the outside of the elbow. It is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles that extend the wrist and fingers. This overuse can lead to inflammation and pain in the tendons.
Tennis elbow is most commonly seen in people who participate in activities that require repetitive wrist and forearm movements, such as tennis, golf and racquet sports. It can also occur in people who perform repetitive tasks at work, such as using a screwdriver or computer mouse.
The symptoms of tennis elbow typically include pain on the outside of the elbow with tenderness to touch and weakness in the wrist and grip strength. The pain may be worse with activities that use the forearm muscles, such as lifting, gripping or twisting.
In most cases, tennis elbow can be treated effectively with physiotherapy. A physiotherapist will assess your individual symptoms and needs and develop a treatment plan that is right for you. This may include:
- Resting from the aggravating activity: Resting or modifying the aggravating activity reduces the chance that the muscles and tendons on the outside of the forearm will become irritated.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to improve the flexibility and strength of the forearm muscles. This can help to reduce pain and prevent further injury.
- Manual therapy: Manual therapy techniques, such as massage, manipulation and dry needling can help to reduce pain, improve range of motion and increase circulation.
- Taping or bracing: Taping or bracing the elbow can help to support the joint and reduce pain.
- Education and lifestyle modification: Your physiotherapist will also provide you with education about tennis elbow and how to prevent it from reoccurring. This may include advice on how to modify your work or hobbies to reduce repetitive strain on your forearm.
In most cases, physiotherapy can be effective in treating tennis elbow without the need for surgery. However, if your symptoms are severe or do not respond to physiotherapy, surgery may be an option, albeit a last resort. A corticosteroid injection into the elbow would also be a consideration if physiotherapy does not help.
If you are experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow, it is important to see a physiotherapist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent the condition from getting worse and can improve your chances of a full recovery.
Here are some additional tips for preventing tennis elbow:
- Warm up before activities that use your forearm muscles.
- Take breaks from activities that put strain on your elbow.
- Use proper ergonomics at work and at home.
- Avoid repetitive movements.
- Strengthen your forearm muscles.
If you have any questions about tennis elbow or physiotherapy, please talk to your doctor or physiotherapist.