If you think tennis elbow is just a sports injury, think again. Desk jockeys, chefs and painters are just as likely to suffer the painful condition! Here, our Physiotherapist Jane Lau reveals everything you need to know to give tennis elbow the heave-ho. And get back in the game.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis to use its technical name, refers to pain in the outer aspect of the elbow caused by overuse. It occurs when the tendons of the forearm muscle that attach to the elbow are unable to handle the load they are bearing. The tendons become inflamed, leading to tears and degenerative changes.
What causes it?
Despite the name, any repetitive activity can cause tennis elbow: computer work, painting, cooking, gardening, excessive gripping, incorrect lifting technique in the gym etc. The problem itself usually stems from poor technique, reduced strength or endurance, or because the tendons are put under too much strain.
What are the signs of tennis elbow?
Tightness in the outer elbow, aches, pain, weakness, and sometimes pins and needles or numbness.
How can you prevent it?
If it’s tennis, or any other sport, that’s causing your elbow issues, it’s important to work on improving your technique, endurance and/or strength. Regardless of the cause, make sure you’re getting sufficient rest and having regular breaks from the repetitive activity. Regular massage is also useful.
How do you treat tennis elbow?
Rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, and soft tissue massage will help ease discomfort. Exercises and stretches, provided by a physio, are also key, to increase strength and endurance. Not just of the local area but also the shoulder, neck, shoulder blades, thoracic etc. Dry needling is also beneficial, and you will also need to avoiding aggravating factors for a period of time.
In the worst-case scenario, your health professional may recommend cortisone injections. However, at The Alignment Studio we avoid recommending these invasive measures unless absolutely necessary. Even if you go down the path of anything invasive, you will still need to thoroughly rehabilitate the elbow by going through with the conservative measures above.
How long does It take to resolve?
Anywhere between 4 – 12 weeks, or longer if it has been left untreated and become chronic.
Will it reoccur?
Continuing your rehab exercises and focusing on correct technique and building strength will help prevent tennis elbow from reoccurring. Recognising early warning signs and seeking treatment early is also key.
If you suspect you may be suffering from tennis elbow, give us a call today on 03 9650 2220.
With over a decade’s experience, Jane Lau is a senior physiotherapist with a background in private practice in Australia and overseas. A University of Melbourne graduate and member of the original Collins Place Physio team, she is skilled in treating musculoskeletal and sports injuries, with a primary focus on alleviating neck, back and shoulder pain. With expertise in postural analysis technology, workplace ergonomic assessments and biomechanical screening, Jane is in demand for her comprehensive and caring approach.