Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylalgia (which literally means “pain on the outside of the elbow”), is the most common non-traumatic cause of elbow pain.
The pain is caused by a tendinopathy of the tendon shared by the muscles which bend the wrist and fingers back. These muscles are used (as well as the muscles that flex the wrist and fingers) when gripping and manipulating objects. Pain is therefore generally aggravated by activities such as holding a water jug, opening doors, shaking hands, using handheld tools, typing and clicking a mouse etc.
It often confuses patients that pain in the elbow is caused by using the hands, but the muscles involved in bending the wrist and fingers back attach at the outside of the elbow.
As mentioned in previous posts, a tendinopathy occurs when a tendon is exposed cumulatively to more load than what it is able to deal with. The body’s attempt to strengthen the tendon causes an inflammatory-type process (which causes pain) and actually results in the tendon being less capable of adapting to load. While playing tennis may provide the load the is too much for the tendon, more common it arises from other activities, such as using handheld tools, or computer work.
Treatments to reduce the load on the tendon, such as taping or bracing and activity modification, help to temporarily relieve pain, but a thorough treatment program should include exercises to help the muscles and tendon better cope with load. Sometimes treatment of the neck and/or upper back is necessary as well, as pain arising from these regions may refer to the side of the elbow, and/or may irritate the nerves that supply the affected muscles.
Like other tendinopathies, tennis elbow can take many months to resolve. Beginning treatment early in the process tends to lead to faster recovery times.
If you need help with tennis elbow pain, or other tendinopathies, see our physiotherapist in Aubin Grove today!
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