Have you been experiencing elbow pain, without an obvious cause as to why? You may be suffering from tennis elbow. Believe it or not, this injury isn’t just exclusive to aspiring Ash Barty’s or Rafa’s — only 5% of sufferers attribute the injury to tennis! Find out more in this month’s blog post!
What is tennis elbow?
Your elbow joint is made up of three bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Tennis elbow (or lateral epicondylitis) refers to strains, or micro-tears, in the tendon that connects the forearm muscles to the bones in the elbow joint. The tendon is a common tendon for a few muscles in the forearm. The most commonly involved muscle is the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB), but others may be involved too. You will find your ECRB located on the outside of the elbow and is responsible for extending both your wrists and fingers, and you’ll be surprised at how important it is!
What are the causes?
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury. Repetitive movements that use the hand and wrist can overload the elbow and forearm tendons, so most of us could fall victim at some point. Although less common, tennis can aggravate the condition. This goes the same for swimming, baseball, cricket or any throwing sports. We also see professionals, who are mechanics, electricians, chefs or painters. It can even be caused by extended computer or phone use — an extra motivation to be mindful of your screen time!
Rest and ice can be used as effective pain relief upon inflammation, however if you leave tennis elbow untreated, your pain can hang around for months on end — so please come see us!
We will first work on de-loading the elbow and forearm, you will likely need to take a break from activities that aggravate the tendon. We may also use gentle soft tissue massage to loosen forearm muscles and promote circulation. Bracing or taping may be used depending on your situation.
Once pain and inflammation has decreased, we will work on strengthening forearm muscles by slowly increasing load. We may begin rehab with gentle wrist bending, before incorporating light weights. We will need you to do some exercises at home (and yes, you will need to do them!). Eventually, more functional training exercises can assist in returning to full activity.
If you want to help keep your elbow and forearm happy, remember to stretch before you engage in activity. A simple wrist extensor stretch is easy to do anywhere:
- Hold one arm out straight, with your palm facing down.
- Use your other hand to hold your fingers and gently bend your wrist down towards your body — you should feel a stretch in your forearm.
- Hold for 20 seconds before repeating on the other side.
You can also try incorporating this wrist flexor and extensor exercise to build forearm strength. All you need is a light dumbbell or water bottle!
- Hold the dumbbell in one hand, with your palm facing down.
- Place your forearm on a table or thigh, or any stable surface that your hand and wrist can hang off.
- Slowly raise your hand (you can help it with the other hand if necessary), then lower it slowly. Make sure your arm stays flat the entire time.
- Repeat 15 times.
If you think you may be suffering from tennis elbow, or want some more guidance on how to prevent a flare up, please get in touch today! You can reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on (08) 9203 7771 or directly book an appointment.
- Alaia, M. (2020). Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis). [Online]. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis/ (Accessed 31 Jan 2022)
- Wheeler, T. (2020). How To Prevent Tennis Elbow. [Online]. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/prevent-tennis-elbow (Accessed 31 Jan 2022)
- Freutel, N. (2019). 5 Exercises for Tennis Elbow Rehab. [Online]. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/tennis-elbow-rehab#supination-with-a-dumbbell (Accessed 31 Jan 2022)
- (n.d.). Tennis Elbow Management. [Online]. Available at: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Tennis_Elbow_Management (Accessed 31 Jan 2022)
- (n.d.). Lateral Epicondylitis. [Online]. Available at: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Lateral_Epicondylitis (Accessed 31 Jan 2022)