Tennis Elbow

17 January 2019

With the Australian Open hotting up and every man and his dog making their way to a tennis court the Active Hand Therapy team thought it would be a great time to write a post about Tennis Elbow. So whether your elbow pain is due to a mean Isner serve or just from gripping your celebratory champagne - Here are some pointers on this niggling injury. 

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow is an injury to the muscle that extends from the elbow to the wrist. Too much force on this muscle over time can cause the area to become swollen and painful. The most common site of injury is the lateral epicondyle - the bony bump on the outside of the elbow.

Tennis Elbow Causes?

Pain often occurs from too much repeated use of the arm muscles. This repeated force creates micro tears in the tendon that attaches to the arm muscle. This tearing causes inflammation and pain. Activities that may worsen elbow pain can include lifting, tennis, golf, writing, hammering, painting and other gripping activities. 

Tennis Elbow Symptoms?

The most common symptom is pain felt on the outside of the bony part of the elbow. Other symptoms can include a dull ache at the elbow, soreness at night or pain when touched. Symptoms usually worsen after using your wrist to grip, squeeze or holding your arm out. Over time your elbow can become stiff.

Elbow Pain Assessment

This will involve a history of symptoms and things that exacerbate the pain. Pain on the outside of the elbow that occurs after gripping activities will often be Tennis Elbow. Other locations eg inside of the elbow or in the centre of the arm needs further assessment by a Hand Therapist. Pain that occurs with no identified reason may have other causes eg arthritis, bursitis, fractiure. Hand Therapists can use range of movement examinations and strength testing to assess the level of inflammation and other causes. Assessment of adjoining structures is also important.

Elbow Pain Treatment

If you have recently injured your elbow, apply ice. The best way to apply ice is to place a thin towel on the painful area and completely cover the elbow and the arm below the elbow with ice. Two or more icepacks may be needed.Leave this on for at least 20 minutes. Rest the elbow for 72 hours.

If the elbow has felt sore on more than one occasion, see a Hand Therapist or a Physiotherapist. Further injury will only take longer to heal over the long term. You don't need a referral for a Hand Therapist and they can also splint if required. Once diagnosis is made and the level of tearing has been assessed a treatment program can be tailored. It is important to get this right. Too much movement can worsen inflammation and cause further damage. Resting for too long can stiffen and decondition the muscle making it prone to re-injure. A graduated exercise program will find the balance for healing and long term cure. Small stretches and massage techniques will help to reduce inflammation. The use of splints and taping can also help depending on the cause and location of the injury. Hand Therapists also have many modified activity protocols that can keep patients doing what they love! If you need any further advice or would like an assessment come and visit our team at Active Hand Therapy. 

Written by David Coles

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