Feeling a bit of pain and tenderness around the upper forearm or elbow?
While you may or may not be an avid tennis player, you most likely have what is commonly referred to as ‘tennis elbow’.
The condition is very common in the general population, most often affecting those aged between 35 – 50.
What Tennis Elbow Looks Like
Tennis elbow typically makes the outside of your elbow and your upper forearm feel tender and sore to touch. Other symptoms may include “swelling of the area, and weakness or stiffness in your forearm. It may hurt to do certain movements, like shake hands or turn a door knob”. (Health Direct)
Tennis elbow is a problem with what is known collectively as “the common extensor tendon”, that is the tendons around the elbow joint. This tendon is part of the muscles that lift your hand up in the air, or backwards (NHS Oxford University Hospitals).
The condition affects a lot of different people from a lot of various groups, most often those engaged in sports but also from lifting weights, and other repetitive recreational and work activities.
How Tennis Elbow Occurs
“Funnily enough, it is predicted that approximately 5% of people suffering from tennis elbow actually play tennis!” (Thrive Physio Plus).
Tennis elbow is caused by repeated use of muscles around the elbow, specifically overusing incorrect technique during activities including:
- Sports such as tennis, golf, and athletics
- Physical labour which regularly holds tools heavier than 1kg, or involves repetitive movements for more than 2 hours a day (manual labour, cleaning, and tradie work)
- Hobbies such as knitting (something for hipster friends and grandmas to be conscious of!).
Pre-existing conditions can also put you at a higher risk of developing tennis elbow:
- Weakness and stiffness in the forearms
- Shoulder muscle weakness
- Unstable elbow joints
- Activities requiring repetitive motion of the arm and elbow
- Unsuitable sports equipment (e.g. oversized equipment)
- Carrying heavy loads continuously
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
The most common sign that you’ll have Tennis Elbow, is recurring pain and tenderness on the outside of the upper forearm, just beneath the elbow. Pain may also extend further down towards the wrist.
Other symptoms include:
- Continuous aches while resting
- Difficulty with clenching the fists
- Pain when you lift of bend the arm, or perform basic activities such as writing or gripping small objects (doorknob, toothbrush)
- Pain when twisting the forearm, such as extending the forearm fully or turning a door handle.
- Tenderness around the elbow, radiating pain in the arm
Who is Best to Treat Tennis Elbow?
Deep tissue massage is the go-to for tennis elbow recovery. In order to regain proper movement of the arm, deep tissue massage eases tensions in areas affected by muscular imbalance. Injury often disrupts existing movement patterns, and the body compensates by adjusting to new movement pathways in order to avoid the feeling of pain during movement.
As with most injuries, dry needling and cupping can be effective tools which the therapist may choose to help the client. Surgery should be seen as a last-resort option or only for extreme cases where the tendon is extremely damaged – obviously on the medical advice of a GP. Anti inflammatories can also play a large role in decreasing the pain, but again this should be on medical advice.
Tennis Elbow Exercises
There are a number of wonderful resources providing advice on exercises for tennis elbow. These exercises include stretching and eccentric loading (lengthening the muscle) to help relieve the pain. Medical News Today provides the most extensive online list. Check out: ‘8 exercises for tennis elbow’. Your physical therapist will provide those best for you as part of your personalised treatment plan.
If you are experiencing Tennis Elbow symptoms, first visit your GP to assess the underlying causes, then on the advice of your GP visit your physical therapist for targeted relief, and an ongoing treatment plan (including home exercises between appointments). A single appointment will most likely provide immediate relief but there is no magic bullet for chronic aches and pains. Long term improvements will happen only with ongoing therapy and an active treatment plan.
Book an appointment with a therapist today on 03 8598 9804 or online.