After our recent talk about Golfer’s Elbow, we have to give some attention to it’s neighbor, Tennis Elbow. Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is defined by irritation at the tendons that attach to the outside of the elbow.
Tennis Elbow seems to be more of the mysterious diagnosis for many, happening without a true cause, or any real inflammation for that matter. Newer studies are showing that this problem is more of a degenerative process at the tendon rather than local inflammatory changes. For some, there can also be local nerve irritation as well.
Tennis Elbow can still occur with overuse or sports related activities. Especially with racket sports, it’s important to determine if there is a muscle imbalance happening higher up in the chain (shoulder or back) that may be forcing the forearm to do some extra work. Addressing this area can prevent future flare ups. We can see irritation in sports and activity with:
- Racket sports
- Throwing Sports
- Computer Work
- Home Improvements (screwdriver)
You can, like Golfer’s Elbow, stretch and ice to try and decrease the irritation before seeing your Physical Therapist. Icing for 10-15 minutes a few times a day when irritated can be helpful. Stretching in pulling the palm towards the forearm with the elbow straight as seen in the picture can lengthen the muscles that are pulling on the tendons as shown in the picture. Hold this position 30 seconds, repeat a few times in a row, and do this a few times throughout the day.
There are a number of treatment options in physical therapy for this condition and seeing your therapist is really the way to go on this diagnosis. Treatment strategy may differ if it’s found to be more inflammation rather than degenerative changes. Some therapists have had very good results with dry needling, other manual techniques such as joint manipulation, and specific exercises designed to stimulate blood flow within the tendon. For some, a counterstrap brace helps (although it can irritate others).
If you are having issues with this area at the outside of your elbow that is not controlled by stretching and ice, come in and see what your therapist can do for you!