Tennis elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis as it is clinically known, is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow, it often occurs after strenuous overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm. You do not have to play tennis to get this condition! I have seen several cases of Tennis elbow recently so thought I would write a Blog identifying the causes, symptoms and treatments.
Where/when is the pain?
- On the outside of your upper forearm, just below the bend of your elbow
- When you lift or bend your arm
- When gripping small objects or when twisting your forearm e.g. opening a jar
Tennis elbow can last 6 months – 2 years, but it completely depends on the treatment you receive. Tennis elbow is most common in people aged 30-50, although anyone can get tennis elbow if they do repetitive motions.
The cause of tennis elbow
Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), involves the muscles and tendons of your forearm. Your forearm muscles extend your wrist and fingers. Your forearm tendons (often called extensors) attach the muscles to bone and they attach on to the lateral epicondyle. The tendon usually involved in tennis elbow is called the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB).
If the muscles and tendons are strained (overused), tiny tears and inflammation can develop near the bony lump (the lateral epicondyle) on the outside of your elbow.
As the name suggests, tennis elbow is sometimes caused by playing tennis. However, it is often caused by other activities that place repeated stress on the elbow joint, such as decorating, playing the violin and repetitive lifting.
Approximately 80 – 95% of people suffering with tennis elbow recover fully using treatment. These treatments include:
The first step is to give your arm proper rest, this involves stopping any sport/repetitive motions or heavy work activities for several weeks.
10 minutes at a time over the elbow joint, you can also take ibuprofen to reduce any inflammation and reduce the pain you may be experiencing.
Sports Massage and manipulation into the forearm will help to reduce the tension in the muscles. Specific exercises are recommended to help strengthening the muscles of the forearm. Massage will help to stimulate healing of the micro-tears in the muscles. (exercises are shown on my instagram page @mollysportsmassage)
Check your racquet to make sure it is a ‘proper fit’ for you. Stiffer racquets and looser-strung racquets often can reduce the stress on the forearm. This will take the pressure off the muscles in the forearm and therefore reduce the likelihood of tennis elbow reoccurring.
Check the weights you are lifting – reduce the weights and less reps while you are in recovery. All of this will help to speed up recovery.