Tennis elbow is a painful condition caused by inflammation of a tendon on the outside of the elbow. Technically called lateral epicondylitis, the informal name originates in the repetitive motions – like swinging a tennis racket – that aggravate the condition. But you don’t have to have ever played a match to suffer from the ailment.
Fortunately, specific treatments and hand therapy can help reduce the pain of tennis elbow.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
There is no one activity or movement that causes tennis elbow, but the condition generally originates from repeated movements of the hand, wrist, and elbow. These repetitive movements overuse the tendons and extensor muscles around the elbow. Extra stress is placed where the muscles in the forearm merge into the tendons that attach to the end of the upper arm bone.
Tennis players often suffer from tennis elbow but most with the condition don’t play the sport. Florists, carpenters, painters, cooks, gardeners, and plumbers are just a few examples of professions susceptible to this inflammation. Other sports such as baseball and squash can also lead to tennis elbow.
The condition is diagnosed most often in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.
What Are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow can hurt to the point that everyday tasks become difficult.
Common symptoms of this condition include the following:
- Sharp pain on the outside of the elbow during activity
- General aching in the forearm, even when it is at rest
- Difficulty in gripping objects
- Pain when extending arm
- Forearm weakness
- Stiffness in the elbow joint
- Swelling of the elbow joint
- Tenderness when you press on the outside of the elbow
Without treatment, tennis elbow doesn’t go away. It can get worse and lead to a more chronic condition. Golfer’s elbow is like tennis elbow but affects the tendons on the inside of the elbow. Many tennis elbow symptoms and treatments also apply to golfer’s elbow.
Can Tennis Elbow Be Cured?
Since these muscles are involved with most daily activities, tennis elbow is difficult to heal without proper intervention. There is a broad spectrum of treatments to alleviate the pain. At ProFysio Physical Therapy, our philosophy is to start with conservative therapies first before implementing more invasive procedures.
Tennis elbow treatments can include any of the following:
- Stretching the wrist and forearm
- Wearing a wrist brace or forearm strap
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Trigger point therapy
- EPAT/Shockwave treatment
- Having corticosteroid injections
Surgery is occasionally needed if the patient does not respond to conservative treatment.
Using Physical Therapy for Acute and Chronic Pain
Treatment for tennis elbow happens in stages. The first stage focuses on teaching you how to modify movements to place less stress on the elbow. Reducing inflammation at this stage is also important. Our physical therapists will then help you improve your strength and train you how to use the muscles in the right way to avoid reinjury, including using the muscles eccentrically (tension while the muscle is lengthening). Lastly, we make sure that you remain active by modifying daily activities and sports. Using the proper technique in your sport or your job can have a profound impact. Simple changes can make big difference.
If you are experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow, contact us to schedule a free consultation. Call (732) 812-5200 to schedule an appointment at one of our four locations: Aberdeen, East Brunswick, Edison, or Old Bridge.