It’s now been a week since Federer & Wozniacki took out the Australian Open tennis tournament. And whilst we’re talking tennis, it was a pity that Australia lost their Davis Cup tie over the weekend.
So, why the talk about tennis? We want to talk to you about TENNIS ELBOW. It’s one of those conditions, which we at Arrow Physiotherapy find most people have heard of, but often don’t know too much about. Well that’s about to change as we let you know a bit about tennis elbow and also share some hot tips on what to do if you have tennis elbow (see down below).
You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow! In fact, most people we see with tennis elbow don’t play tennis – it is common among those involved in lifting and gripping activities.
Tennis elbow is pain which is located on the outside of the elbow. It can also extend down the forearm toward the back of the hand in some people.
Within the medical fraternity, tennis elbow is known as lateral epicondylagia (lateral refers outside, your epicondyle is the bony lump on the outside of your elbow and algia is a word derived from Greek meaning pain).
Tennis elbow is actually an injury to one tendon (or multiple tendons) on the outside of the elbow. It comes about due to stresses being applied to the tendons, which exceed their ability to withstand these stresses. This can happen with completing excessive exercise, strenuous upper limb activities, repetitive activities or unaccustomed activities, especially in those with forearm weakness or using poor technique.
Those with tennis elbow typically experience pain with gripping activities, lifting or movements involving wrist or finger extension.
HOT TIPS FOR MANAGING TENNIS ELBOW!
#1: To avoid aggravating tennis elbow, you should look to limit gripping and lifting activities. If you do need to lift items, you should look to do this with your palm facing up (this includes bags). If using a computer mouse aggravates your pain, you may want to look at getting an upright mouse.
#2: Rest WILL NOT fix tennis elbow! Specific exercises that aim to improve the tendons ability to withstand stress are what are needed to ultimately fix tennis elbow. Speak with your physio regarding these.
#3: You may have heard of cortisone, PRP or other injections previously. In nearly all cases, these do not work tennis elbow. The scientific literature indicates that injectable therapies DO NOT assist with tennis elbow in the long-term and in some cases actually worsen the condition in the long-term.
BONUS HOT TIP: There are commercially available braces called tennis elbow braces which wrap around the forearm just below the elbow. These tennis elbow braces can be effective in reducing the pain in some people as they reduce the stress being applied to the injured tissue. This is great if it does reduce the pain. It must however be acknowledged that this effectively rests the injured tissue. If you refer back to Hot Tip #2 – rest does not fix tennis elbow. Therefore, braces should only be used as a part of managing/treating tennis elbow.
SUPER BONUS HOT TIP FOR THOSE WHO DO PLAY TENNIS: There are a number of specific factors that need to be looked at if you play tennis and get tennis elbow. These include your training load (how much time you spend on court or how many balls you hit, how many training sessions/games you have in a week) and specifics of your racquet/s including size of handle (this can change subtly when applying new grip tape), head size and weight. So if you do play tennis and go to consult a physio regarding tennis elbow, it would be worth you discussing these factors and even bringing in your racquet/s.
Hopefully you now know a bit more about tennis elbow. If you think you may have tennis elbow, our physios are able to appropriately assess you to confirm that you do have tennis elbow (there are a number of other conditions which can cause pain on the outside of the elbow) and put together an appropriate treatment plan for your circumstances.