Updated: Mar 8
Tennis elbow is another very common condition that we treat at Theramax Rehab Centre. Tennis elbow is the inflammation of the tendon of the muscles at the back of the arm. It is also called lateral epicondylitis or lateral elbow tendinopathy. It is called tennis elbow as it is commonly seen in amateur tennis players who play a lot of backhand shots with poor technique. Repetitive stress on the posterior forearm muscles from the ball hitting the racquet makes these muscles inflamed and sore. And as such it is classified as an overuse injury. Thus also very common in squash, table tennis, racquet ball and weight lifters.
As it is classified as an overuse injury, professions whose work involve repetitive lifting, driving screws, painting, plumbing works, chronic use of a computer mouse, knitting etc are more prone to this condition. You can also develop tennis elbow if you have weak shoulder muscles.
Common symptoms include pain in the outer part of the elbow. Pain usually is absent at rest and is sharp and stabbing with activity- lifting, powerful grips, opening door handles, holding grocery bags, holding a mug etc. Pain may also radiate into the lower forearm or upper arm.
Tennis elbow responds well to physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment. As it is an overuse injury, the key to a good prognosis is proper load management.
Shockwave therapy, soft tissue release techniques, acupuncture, dry needling, taping, Laser, electric stimulation etc. are all excellent modalities to help symptom management when paired with activity adjustments, stretching and strengthening exercises. The focus is on eccentric loading of the posterior forearm muscles when exercising- in simple terms loading a muscle when lengthening it.
Massage therapy may also help as massage therapists can identify tight muscles and work on releasing them.
Like with any overuse injury, the key here is to keep moving but without irritating the tissues further. Every time you irritate the elbow the tissues get more inflamed and that delays the healing further. Activity modification- working with reduced loads or frequent breaks is a start. You can also talk to your physiotherapist or chiropractor as discuss ways to self massage muscles. Also sticking to the exercise routine that your physiotherapist has prescribed you goes a long way. Check out some easy exercises that you can do at home on our website. (Link here)
A tennis elbow brace has also shown to alleviate symptoms temporarily in stubborn cases. A brace diverts forces away from the inflamed part of the tendon and thus allow it to rest and heal. It is important that you discuss using a brace with a health care professional before buying on.
Like with any injury, the timeline for recovery is different for everyone. In my practice, I have found that acute onset tennis elbows respond fast and needs less time (4-6 weeks) for recovery. Chronic tennis elbow takes time to completely recover and usually takes months to see a notable change in symptoms especially if there are other variables involved. Also, not all elbow pain is tennis elbow. It is best to get yourself assessed by a physiotherapist or chiropractor first and get accurately diagnosed.
This article is written by AJ Varghese. AJ is a physiotherapist and a co-owner of Theramax Rehab Centre.