Lateral epicondylitis, also known as “Tennis Elbow” is the most common overuse injury of the elbow. However, only 5% of people that present with tennis elbow actually relate it to tennis!
It is a “tendinopathy” injury involving the extensor muscles of the outer forearm. These muscles also cross the wrist joint, and help to stabilise the wrist during gripping, twisting and lifting tasks.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Similar to other tendinopathy issues, tennis elbow develops over time and due to repetitive arm movements. Tendons don’t like to be squished and they don’t like to be tugged. The constant tugging can eventually cause microscopic tears in the tissue, leading to injury.
This is why people who perform repetitive one-sided movements (e.g. labourers, painters, electricians, gardeners, computer-based workers) can suffer from tennis elbow too. We often see tennis elbow in other sports such as swimming, baseball and other racquet sports.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
People normally have pain on the outside of the elbow, which gets worse after movement and gripping tasks. Left untreated, this condition can worsen to the stage where people report constant pain and have little to no grip strength at all.
Treatment of Tennis Elbow
Most people fully recover from tennis elbow, but seeking expert care is important to avoid further deterioration of the injury. Generally speaking, most people do not require any imaging to diagnose tennis elbow. But seeking early intervention is key.
Physiotherapy can involve:
- Diagnosis and management plan
- Education and advice
- Manual therapy and dry needling
- Exercise rehabilitation: it is important that rehabilitation starts early to stimulate collagen formation and remodelling to strengthen the tendon.
- Shockwave Therapy: Here at Gold Coast Sports and Spinal, we offer Shockwave therapy which helps in acute and chronic tennis elbow to speed up recovery and reduce pain. It is a non-invasive therapy that is used to help treat chronic and acute tendon conditions.
- Bracing and taping techniques
Most acute tennis elbow injuries can take between 6-12 weeks to completely heal, but if left undiagnosed, the recovery window can extend up to 2 years. It is important not to rush your recovery, as tennis elbow can deteriorate quickly. Unlike other tendinopathy conditions, pain is not ok. It is important to modify your loading, training and day-to-day tasks to minimise any further injury to your elbow. Rehabilitation is very important to prevent deterioration and repeated episodes of tennis elbow.