Spring has sprung. It’s time to start thinking about enjoying more activities outside. Some sports that have been hard to play through the winter, like tennis, are suddenly accessible again. With access comes excitement, and after that, bliss? Or possible injury. If 0 games in 3 months, then 3 games in 3 hours all weekend sounds like you, elbow pain may be another thing you’re feeling.
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis is a common type of elbow pain that appears in racket sports, and is usually felt as pain in the outside of the elbow with gripping, swinging and turning of the racket.
Lateral epicondylitis affects your wrist extensor group near the tendon and can be associated with loading that exceeds its capacity, leading to breakdown, pain and swelling.
However, this isn’t always as simple as being an elbow issue. Shoulder strength, stability and biomechanics play a big roll in elbow pain. When your shoulder isn’t functioning optimally, the elbow will try to make up for it, which is commonly what leads to this overloading issue.
[Mechanism of Injury + Affected Tissues]
Tennis elbow usually occurs from overuse and muscle strain of the wrist extensor or forearm muscles (muscles that you use to straighten & raise or extend your hand or wrist. The repetitive motions and overhead of the tissue may cause micro tears or tiny tears to the tendons that attached at the bony prominence (lateral epicondyle) of the outside of your elbow. It is common is people who’s jobs or hobbies feature types of motions that overload the wrist extensors (ie – tennis players, other racket sports, pianists, painters, plumbers, carpenters, and even some throwing athletes, such as baseball players)
Pain commonly occurs in everyday life when certain movements, such as gripping a coffee cup, turning a doorknob or even shaking someones hand.
Physical Therapy should focus on:
Modulating the pain
Normalizing elbow range of motion
Mobilizing the soft tissue surrounding the joint (elbow)
Strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint (elbow) & proximal stability (shoulder and shoulder blade)
Making the proper exercise and ADL modifications to promote pain free activities & movements – ergonomic changes, such as widening the grip of the tool or sport equipment made by your Physical Therapist to lessen the stress on the wrist extensors
IASTM may have an impact on physiological changes by providing an increase in blood flow, reduction in tissue viscosity, myofascial release, interruption of pain receptors, & an improvement of flexibility of underlying tissue
Kinesiology tape may be used to promote positive blood flow to the area and aid in the removal of wastes and byproducts created by inflammation, assisting in the healing rate of the injury
The use of a compression sleeve during and after sport may also improve blood flow, stabilize the surrounding muscles to prevent stress and strain, as well as reducing swelling & manage pain.
The University of Michigan Health states that an acute or mild tendon injury may take few weeks of rest to heal and a severely damaged tendon can take months to mend. Mild soreness in the lateral elbow (that comes and goes) may improve in 6 to 8 weeks. Chronic or prolonged elbow pain & soreness may improve in 6 to 12 months. In some cases, the pain may even last for 2 years or more
Other forms of treatment that your MD may subscribe may include NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines and steroid injections, such as local anesthetic and a cortisone preparation.
about 200,000 cases of lateral epicondylitis in the US develop each year
This condition typically affects adults aged 40-60 years old
Despite the name, only 1 in 20 play tennis
*This does not constitute medical advice. If you have pain or injury please consult a medical profession in person