What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is a term for pain on the outside of the elbow that is typically provoked by gripping or lifting when the palm is facing downwards. 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 in which this tendon may become painful if repetition of the same activities such as gripping, pruning and tennis. If people are not diagnosed early then symptoms may continue for months to years.
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis Elbow can be caused by:
By having a continuous load on your elbow the tendon responds by becoming swollen and begins a process of trying to make itself stronger so that it can perform the task in the future although this process does not always work correctly. Symptoms may worsen if not treated.
How do I know if I have tennis elbow?
If you have tennis elbow then you may have a combination of symptoms and signs such as:
- Pain on the outside of the elbow in which are aggravated by gipping or lifting.
- Elbow may become stiff
Conditions such as arthritis and radial nerve entrapment can give similar symptoms to Tennis Elbow. Therefore it is vital that you are assessed and receive the right treatment for your condition.
How can physiotherapy help with tennis elbow?
Your physiotherapist will assess you and discuss a personal plan to best manage your condition to ensure you can return back to your activities pain free. Your management program will include hands-on treatment and at home exercises with weights. A 12 week program will most likely be offer but it will allow you to become stronger and return back to your normal lifestyle. You may also be offered a tennis elbow brace or use strapping to relieve the pain in the short term, but this is not a long term fix. Medication may be needed to completely resolve your condition in which your physiotherapist and GP will be able to discuss with you.
How effective is physiotherapy for tennis elbow?
It has been researched that within 12 months people have resolved their condition with the help and guidance of physiotherapy. This also includes the physiotherapist ability to reduce pain.
What can I do at home?
To help reduce pain at home you may do the following things:
- Apply ice for 8–10 minutes, until the skin goes numb to touch. It’s vital to have a damp towel or something similar between your skin and the ice pack to avoid an ice burn. If you skin starts to burn remove ice pack immediately.
- Modifying your activity is also a great way to reduce your pain.
- Trying a tennis elbow brace as a pain-reliever or wear a wrist brace.
- Massaging your forearm muscles can help relieve some of the pain and tightness.
How long until I feel better?
Targeted physiotherapy management of tennis elbow is commonly with people in to provide short-term relief immediately. People usually find improved function within 2–3 weeks, and commonly symptoms are completely gone within 12–16 weeks.
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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.