“But I’ve never even played tennis!” This is a common phrase we hear as physiotherapists. So, let’s talk about the truth behind tennis elbow – what is it? How did I get it? And most importantly, how do I get rid of it?
What is Tennis Elbow?
Lateral epicondylalgia more commonly known as tennis elbow, is a painful condition of the elbow caused by repetitive actions of the forearm extensor muscles. Overuse of these muscles results in degeneration of the tendons at their bony insertion rather than inflammation (remember, tendons are tough, ropey structures that attach muscle to bone!).
What are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
The most common complaints of tennis elbow are pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow with gripping, pushing, pulling and lifting. Additionally, elbow pain can sometimes be associated with the neck and shoulder. In these cases, pain may be caused by dysfunction with the nerves that travel from the neck down your arm. It’s important to have a health care professional conduct a thorough assessment to determine the source of your pain to develop an effective treatment plan.
How is Tennis Elbow Treated?
Management of tennis elbow can vary based on the cause, duration of symptoms, irritability and individual goals!
Your physiotherapist may choose a variety of effective techniques including soft tissue release to improve tension in the forearm muscles, mobilization of the elbow joint or acupuncture. Additionally, your therapist will provide education regarding proper ergonomics, initial avoidance of pain provoking movements and when it may be appropriate to reintroduce these activities.
Exercise is the last critical piece to rehabilitating a tennis elbow. Here are some of the best exercises to help with a tennis elbow:
- Strengthening – Eccentric forearm strengthening is potentially the superior form of strengthening in the case of a tennis elbow. This type of exercise has an emphasis on the lowering phase of the movement. In some cases, beginning with isometric strengthening may be beneficial. This type of exercise focuses on strengthening without moving your limb.
- Self-mobilizations of the elbow joint
- Soft-tissue release – Reducing tension in the forearm muscle may help to relieve pressure off the tendons involved in a tennis elbow. This can be done using a tennis or lacrosse ball, or a static forearm stretch.
Your physiotherapist will work with you to select appropriate exercises, and ensure you perform these exercises properly and effectively.
How Long Does it Take to Recover from Tennis Elbow?
Tendon injuries can be persistent and difficult to manage without early, active intervention. It is best to have your injury assessed within the first few weeks of symptom onset without sufficient improvement. A typical tennis elbow takes approximately 6-8 weeks to fully heal. However, if your symptoms are stemming from a variety of factors, and without appropriate treatment, recovery can take much longer.
If you are experiencing elbow pain, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Aurora Sports Medicine Professionals to book an appointment with one of our registered physiotherapists. We’re here to help!