Tennis elbow is a term for pain on the outside of the elbow that is typically aggravated by gripping or lifting when the palm is facing downwards. One of the most common diagnoses for tennis elbow is tendinopathy of the common extensor tendons of the wrist, which is typically an overuse injury. The muscles that bend the wrist backwards connect via a tendon that attaches just above the elbow, at the bone on the outside of the elbow. This tendon can become painful after activities such as gripping, pruning and tennis. Many people find that their symptoms continue for months to years if not assessed and treated early.
Tennis elbow is typically caused by an increase in activities that load the tendon. Examples of these activities are gripping, tennis, pruning and DIY. The tendon responds to this increase in activity by becoming swollen and begins a process of trying to make itself stronger so that it can perform the task in the future. However, this process does not always work perfectly and, in some people, the tendon gradually becomes painful, often days after the increase in loading. If left untreated, this pain and dysfunction can become more debilitating.
Accurate diagnosis is crucial in the selection of the best treatment for tennis elbow. Your physiotherapist will be able to accurately assess and differentiate the source of your elbow pain. Once your physiotherapist has established the source of your pain, they will discuss the best management of your condition and a plan to return you to being pain-free.
Part of your physiotherapy management may include some hands-on treatment. Your physiotherapist will teach you how to do this yourself. They may also perform a manual technique called mobilisation with movement (MWM), which has been demonstrated to assist with the pain of tennis elbow.
Another treatment that your physiotherapist will use is exercises with weights, which will help relieve the pain, increase the ability of the tendon to cope with load and increase the strength of your forearm muscles. This will be something that your physiotherapist will progress as you get stronger. You will probably need to do this for 12 weeks.
Your physiotherapist may fit you with a tennis elbow brace or use strapping to relieve the pain in the short term, but this will not be the solution to your problem and is not a substitute for exercise.
Finally, your physiotherapist will discuss some of the treatment options that you can talk about with your doctor, such as the use of topical medications. New research has indicated that corticosteroid injections result in worse long-term outcomes compared to physiotherapy or placebo injections.
For more information on Tennis elbow: https://choose.physio/your-body/elbow/tennis-elbow
For advice or if you have any questions, or if you would like a consult and treatment, please call Haberfield Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic on 02 9136 2376.
Article courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association