What is Tennis Elbow

By Osteopath Dr Shehan

What is tennis elbow?

Pains on the outside of your elbow? Has it been getting worse for weeks on end? Finding weakness with particular movements of the hand and wrist? You may be suffering from Tennis elbow. Often mismanaged, Tennis elbow is a common condition. I’ve seen tennis elbow frequently and it presents in a variety of professions. From accountants to bricklayers to even golfers. To treat tennis elbow, you must understand not only the patient, but also get an understanding of their lifestyle and daily activities.

What causes it?

Lateral Epicondylalgia [Tennis elbow] is an overuse injury caused by repetitive strain of the muscles controlling backward wrist and finger movements. This repeated strain causes degeneration of the tendon. This then leads to pain. Despite other muscles being involved, it is the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis [ECRB] muscle and its tendon that is most commonly affected.

Tennis elbow has also long been known as ‘Lateral Epicondylitis’. However this indicates inflammation of the tendon. Studies now indicate that it is not an inflammatory condition but a degenerative one.

Symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain localised to the outside of the Elbow (especially on the bone).
  • Weakness and pain that is worse with gripping and grasping.
  • Pain that is worse with repetitive wrist movements.
  • Morning stiffness and persistent ache

Who is at risk and how common is it?

Tennis elbow affects approximately 1-3 % of people every year. Although it can affect anyone, people over 40 are most at risk. Funnily enough tennis players only make up only 5-10% of the patient population despite the name. This condition can affect anyone however such as:

  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Desk workers (Excessive mouse use)
  • Butchers
  • Chef’s
  • Golfer’s
  • Individuals involved in racquet sports
  • Gym goers (Excessive lifting)

How can Osteopathy help?

Like Physiotherapy, Osteopathy can assist you in many ways. Our manual therapy techniques may assist in mobilising the specific muscles of the forearm to decrease pain. This will include soft-tissue, joint mobilisation/manipulation and stretching. We will also work on nearby areas such as the shoulder, neck and wrists that may contribute to movement pattern problems and pain. Some osteopaths are also able to apply bracing, dry needling and other electro-therapy treatments to help reduce your pain. After the pain has decreased, we will then guide you through education and exercise rehabilitation. This will involve advice on activity modification, self-treatment, coping strategies and exercises designed to strengthen up the affected muscles and tendon.

watch our video on exercises for tennis elbow

How long will it take for my tennis elbow to go away?

If left untreated, it can take between 6 months and 2 years to get better. In some cases it may not get better without the need of physical therapy or surgery. Physiotherapy and Osteopathy may help speed up your recovery rate and reduce the reoccurrence rate of your tennis elbow. Many studies have shown the benefits of early treatment when compared against patients that had no physical therapy at all. Studies have also shown improvement in the outcomes of patients who participated in physical therapy compared to those who had surgery and cortisone injections.

By Osteopath Dr Shehan – check out his profile here.

Available: New Farm Clinic: Wednesday & Friday & Alexandra Hills Clinics: Monday, Thursday & Saturday

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