Most people have either heard of tennis elbow or even experienced this debilitating condition themselves. In this article I just wanted to do a quick overview of what this condition actually is, what causes it and what are the best ways to treat it. It is known under different names such as lateral epicondylitis, elbow tendinosis and extensor tendinopathy. This is an overuse, degenerative condition of the tendon on the outside of the elbow caused by excessive quick, monotonous, repetitive contractions and gripping activities of the wrist. It occurs in about 1-3% of people, however it is more common in people between the ages of 30 and 60. It is as common in men as it is in women. There is usually reduced grip strength and pain in the elbow area. The symptoms can last for up to 2 years. To date, there is no proven single ideal treatment for tennis elbow.
A number of various treatment techniques are employed by physiotherapists and other health professionals to treat pain associated with tennis elbow. By far the most effective way of physiotherapy treatment is physical exercise involving strengthening and stretching exercises. Of all possible therapies for tennis elbow exercise has the most clinical evidence and proof of being effective. You are able to find a video demonstration of this type of physiotherapy exercise programme by clicking on the video link below.
Please note that if you are suffering from elbow pain, it is essential to see a health professional first to confirm the diagnosis of tennis elbow before commencing these exercises. Apart from exercise, acupuncture and manipulation can help to relieve pain over a short period of time. However, these treatment methods don’t seem to be significantly effective in the long run (beyond 6 weeks from the date of treatment). Both acupuncture and manipulation can be used in physiotherapy to make exercising more comfortable, thus maximising the benefit of strengthening.
One of the most important factors influencing recovery is avoidance of aggravating activities such as lifting, grasping, playing racquet sports or any other movements that produce pain in the elbow. In the case of tennis, badminton or squash it often helps to adjust the grip size of the racquet handle (i.e. increasing the diameter of the handle may help to alleviate some of the symptoms triggered by playing these sports). Unfortunately for a number of people suffering from tennis elbow their occupational activities may involve some of these aggravating movements. It is therefore crucial to modify these activities aiming to minimise or eliminate pain. In cases when this is not possible or when the pain persists, we recommend using tennis elbow braces (click here to see what it looks like) that you can use around the elbow. This helps to take some strain off the troublesome area and avoid re-aggravations.
For further advice please contact our friendly physiotherapy team.