Tennis Elbow occurs when the muscles and tendons of the forearm become inflamed at the point that they attach to the lateral epicondyle (the bony bump on the outside of the elbow). The injury can be acute or chronic and is, due to inflammation and damage to the muscles and tendons that bring the wrist and fingers backward – an action that is used in playing tennis, hence the term Tennis Elbow.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Symptoms usually develop slowly. Initially, pain may be relieved with heat application and stretching, or may dissipate once the elbow has warmed up, but return upon rest. As the injury develops, pain occurs with most wrist/hand movements and does not subside. Symptoms include:
- Pain on the outside of the elbow at the lateral epicondyle and the upper side of the forearm
- Pain upon use of the hand and wrist for gripping activities, and also when the outside of the forearm is stretched. Elbow movement is usually pain free.
- Pain/stiffness in the neck if inflammation in the area aggravates the radial nerve.
Causes of Golfers’ Elbow
While Tennis Elbow is common in tennis players, it also occurs in people engaging in manual trades, such as hairdressing, checkout work etc., or from unaccustomed hand use (i.e. lots of typing, painting, hammering).
- Acute injury – application of force that is too much for the muscles/tendons of the forearm to tolerate.
- Repetitive overuse, or strain resulting in increasing inflammation in the muscles and tendons
- Degenerative changes in the muscles at the lateral epicondyle resulting chronic Tennis Elbow
Treatment and management
Your osteopath can perform an examination to properly diagnose the condition and identify the cause. They may also recommend:
- Osteopathic treatment of surrounding muscles & joints contributing to the problem
- Rehabilitation exercises
- Identification of ergonomic or training factors to eliminate causes of repetitive strain
- Reducing inflammation with medications or ice
- Rest, and if required, immobilisation using a splint
What to avoid
- Avoid engaging in the activity that may have caused the problem
- Do not apply heat or heat creams to the affected area
- Do not self-prescribe massage, stretches or exercises, as this may aggravate the injury