Tennis Elbow, or Lateral Epicondylalgia is the most common overuse injury to the elbow. It is, ironically more common in non-tennis players. We see a lot of this in our Sydney CBD Physio clinic, especially in office workers who spend long periods using the mouse or typing.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow involves the degeneration of fibres within the tendon of the forearm extensor muscles, typically the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB). Often due to an overload, microscopic tears and irritation occur to the ECRB tendon where it inserts at the elbow. This can cause the fibres within the tendon to become disorganised, thereby reducing efficient loading and causing further irritation. Over time tennis elbow can also begin to affect the neck and nerves around the arm.
Who is at risk?
Tennis Elbow usually affects those aged between 30 and 50, it is most common between the ages of 55-65.
- Middle aged males in the manual labour population, with a history of repetitive lifting, such as jackhammering or carpenters.
- Middle-aged office workers requiring repetitive duties with poor wrist positioning such as typing or using the mouse.
- Middle-aged population who play racket sports frequently and with improper equipment or poor technique.
How can Physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapy can assist in identifying the particular cause of tennis elbow, provide manual therapy techniques to relieve pain, as well as targeted stretches and eccentric exercises to build up the strength of the tendon. As many cases of tennis elbow begin to affect the neck, physiotherapy can help alleviate any tension around the neck that may be perpetuating the elbow pain. Crucial to managing tennis elbow is advising the correct technique for lifting and playing sports. It is often recommended to lift with the ‘palms up’ and a neutral wrist to unload the irritated tendon (see pic).
What about other interventions?
There is recent evidence to suggest that cortisone injections into the elbow have a very poor long term outcome. Evidence suggests that whilst cortisone offers short-term pain relief the recovery will be longer. Surgery is rarely indicated and the majority of cases respond well with appropriate advice and physiotherapy.
What if the pain persists?
If the problem is persisting, it is crucial to ensure no other structures around the elbow, neck or shoulder are contributing to the pain. Some other conditions can mimic the symptoms of tennis elbow.
If you have elbow pain we can help! Get your elbow assessed in our Sydney CBD Physio clinic by the team at Bend + Mend!