Tennis Elbow CaloundraJanuary 13, 2011
Tennis elbow is a common overuse injury causing pain at the outer aspect of the elbow. The muscles that attach at the back of the forearm which extend (ie. bend back) the wrist and fingers have a common bony attachment at the outer aspect of the elbow (lateral epicondyle). When they contract, they place tension through this attachment. When this becomes excessive through repetition or high load, damage to the tendon occurs which leads to subsequent inflammation and degeneration of the tendon.
Tennis elbow is in fact seen more commonly in non-tennis players than tennis players. Patients usually describe repeated wrist extension against resistance in association to developing this condition, for example in sports such as tennis, squash, badminton and manual work such as carpentry, painting, chopping wood, sewing or working at a computer. It may also develop from other activities involving repetitive/ forceful gripping of the hand. A sudden increase in activity of change in equipment can also cause this condition.
Symptoms usually develop over a period of time. Pain is usually felt locally 1-2cm down from the elbow that is tender on palpation. It can range in severity and may keep the patient awake at night. It can increase to sharper pain with activity and in long standing cases muscles weakness and loss of grip strength may be present. Aggravating activities can include; opening a jar, driving, turning a door knob.
Tennis elbow usually settles well with physiotherapy; however this is largely dictated by the patient’s compliance. The key component of treatment is rest from any activity that increases their pain until they are symptom free. Treatment usually also involves; following the RICE regime (rest, ice, compression, elevation), stretching and strengthening program and a graduated return to sport/activity. Sometimes the use of a tennis elbow brace/support can assist rehab.
This condition can recover within a few weeks if it hasn’t been present for long. In more severe/chronic cases it can take up to 6months.