February 5, 2024
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylalgia, is a painful condition which affects the outside or lateral aspect of the elbow. Previously thought to be an inflammatory condition, it is now better described as a degenerative overuse injury of the tendons that attach to the elbow. Tendons connect your muscles to your bones. If you are constantly using these muscles in a repetitive way you may be putting too much stress through the muscles and tendons that attach to the elbow. Symptoms include elbow pain, tenderness to touch, and pain on resisted movements like wrist extension (lifting your wrist upwards).
For tennis players, repetitive backhands, particularly if using a poor technique, can cause a repetitive strain injury. If you can imagine the power involved in hitting a strong backhand – the tennis player needs to control this force going through the racquet correctly. If not, this force will rotate through the wrist instead of being distributed through the rest of the upper limb. Now imagine how many times you have to do this in a tennis match!
The term ‘tennis elbow’ is a bit of a misnomer, as the condition is linked to tennis players in just 5% of cases. Other racquet sports like squash or throwing sports may be the issue. Tennis elbow is most commonly caused by everyday jobs or activities that involve repetitive movements, like
· Playing musical instruments
· Carpentry, plumbing etc.
· Gripping, writing, turning activities
Tennis elbow is usually easy to diagnose. In the early stages, it is crucial to reduce the overload going through the tendons. This may involve a temporary halt or reduction in the intensity of the sport or activity that is causing the problem. Initial physiotherapy management to reduce the pain may involve ice, taping, dry needling or soft tissue massage. However, evidence has shown that the best treatment for tennis elbow in the long term is a progressive strengthening exercise program for the muscles and tendons involved. Strengthening for the rest of the upper limb such as the rotator cuff in the shoulder may be useful to reduce strains going through the elbow again and prevent re-occurrence. Contact ReBalance Physiotherapy on 01 441 0100 to get a tailored exercise program for your tennis elbow!