Lateral epicondylitis, or Tennis Elbow is a very common overuse injury of the elbow. Tennis elbow is inflammation or, in some cases, micro-tearing of the tendons that join the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow. This is caused by repetitive contractile loads chronically stressing the tendon. Common problematic activities include computer use, heavy lifting, forceful forearm rotation and repetitive gripping or vibration.
This chronic condition is commonly seen in sports such as tennis and golf. Careers that involve repetitive arm movements such as electricians, carpenters, gardeners, and desk jobs also commonly present with tennis elbow.
Over time, the forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from repeating the same motions. This leads to pain and tenderness around the elbow, even with common daily tasks.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms often develop gradually. The pain begins as mild and worsens over weeks or even months. Common signs and symptoms include:
– pain on the outside of the elbow which may radiate down the forearm
– tight forearm muscles
– pain shortly after performing aggravating activities
– pain on palpating the outside of the elbow
– weakness in the forearm muscles and reduced grip strength
– night pain
Management aims to relieve pain and control inflammation. Everyone’s recovery is different and is effected by many factors including age, severity, acute inflammation vs chronic degeneration, activity levels, genetics and other medical conditions.
Approximately 95% of people with tennis elbow get better with nonsurgical treatments. However, it may take six to 18 months for symptoms to fully resolve.
- Progressive resistance training, guided by your physiotherapist
- Wrist extensor stretches (30 seconds hold x3, x3/ day) Soft tissue mobilisation and anti-inflammatory modalities
- Off-loading strap/ brace/ taping
- Soft tissue mobilisation and anti-inflammatory modalities
- Cryotherapy: ice to manage pain and inflammation
- Education and ergonomics: modification of activities to reduce damaging stresses and minimise the chance of recurrence