What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow occurs when the soft tissue or muscles at the back of the forearm responsible for extending the wrist and fingers, become inflamed or damaged causing epicondylitis (inflammation of tendons surrounding the epicondyle).
- Damage to the soft tissue in the elbow joint and forearm
- Repeated wrist extension against resistance commonly seen in racket sports
- Forceful gripping
- Gradual onset of symptoms over time
- Pain and tenderness of the elbow joint
- Decreased grip strength
- Weakness and stiffness
- RICE method
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Strengthening and stretching exercises
- Cortisone Injections
Tennis Elbow Diagnosis
Diagnosis of tennis elbow is usually carried out by a doctor or physiotherapist who will examine the area before diagnosing the injury. It is also common for the patient to have an X-Ray or MRI to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out any further complications.
As its name suggests this injury is very common in racket sports such as tennis, badminton, squash etc. due to the nature of the repetitive wrist extension (RSI) against the resistance of a racket and ball and also the repetitive gripping of the hand on the racket causing a strain on the soft tissue. Although its name suggests, this injury is common in any situation which requires repetitive motion of the elbow including painting, brick laying and even knitting.
Although this injury is considered an overuse injury, it is possible to acquire tennis elbow suddenly after a high force or heavy lifting or gripping is undergone.
How Long Does Tennis Elbow Last?
Six months to two years. Tennis elbow, dependent on severity, can last anywhere between six months and two years, but in most cases, the injury is fully healed after just one year.
How To Avoid Tennis Elbow When Lifting Weights?
- Warming up
- Using proper technique and form
- Don’t lift weights that are too heavy
- Incorporate rest days
How Tennis Elbow Brace Works
A tennis elbow brace works by supporting the arm and providing comfort for the injury. An elbow brace will also offer targeted compression and help to relieve pain in the area.
Will Massage Help Tennis Elbow?
Massaging a tennis elbow could help to relieve pain. A professional massage therapist will be able to advise on the best massages to help with a tennis elbow. This may include cross friction fiber massage, trigger point therapy and myofascial massage.
How To Sleep With Tennis Elbow
Place your arm on a pillow when sleeping to help relieve pain.
Due to the nature of the injury, the symptoms of Tennis Elbow will usually appear gradually overtime. Patients will usually feel pain and tenderness at the elbow joint which will be more apparent when any activity requiring the elbow is undergone.
Depending on the severity of the injury pain can range from a small twinge to a constant sharp pain which may even be felt in the forearm, neck or upper back. The patient may also feel a decrease in grip strength and feel pain in when grasping or picking up objects. The patient is also likely to feel a weakness and stiffness which is more apparent in the morning.
In order to treat this injury, rest is crucial so to not damage the ligament any further and to stay away from any activity that could aggravate the knee or causes any pain or discomfort to the area. Continuing any strenuous activity or resuming sport will not only hinder the healing process, it could lead to further damage to the injury and surrounding tissue. Applying ice to the area is also an important aspect of recovery for any soft tissue injury as it will minimise any swelling and inflammation of the area. Following the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) when the injury first occurs and within the following 72 hours will ensure no further damage is caused to the area and prevent any further swelling of the injury which may come from resuming activity. Anti-Inflammatory medications may be taken to relive the pain of the injury and also to minimise any swelling. Elbow straps are often recommended to patients with tennis elbow as they will provide the elbow with support to allow effective healing and also relieves strain from the tendon. Many patients also continue to use straps as well as taping and techniques once they return to sport to prevent the injury reoccurring in the future.
A strengthening program may also be advised by a physiotherapist to keep the area strong and ensure flexibility once the injury had healed. This should not be done without professional advice as a patient can run the risk of aggravating the area and increase the healing process. In the final stages of recovery and in the first few months of returning to training, stretching exercises to the quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles may be performed to keep the area stable and strong and can also help prevent the injury reoccurring.
In severe cases or if other measures have been unsuccessful, injections may be used in order to relieve pain on the elbow and if this still doesn’t help treat the injury, surgery may be used as a last resort.