Lateral epicondylitis or epicondalgia, commonly known as tennis elbow, is not limited to tennis players. The backhand swing in tennis can strain the muscles and tendons of the elbow in a way that leads to tennis elbow. But many other types of repetitive activities can also lead to tennis elbow: painting with a brush or roller, running a chain saw, and using many types of hand tools. Any activities that repeatedly stress the same forearm muscles can cause symptoms of tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow causes pain that starts on the outside bump of the elbow, the lateral epicondyle. The forearm muscles that bend the wrist back (the extensors) attach on the lateral epicondyle and are connected by a single tendon which connects the muscle to the bone
Tendons are made up of strands of a material called collagen. The collagen strands are lined up in bundles next to each other.
Why did I develop tennis elbow?
Overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm and elbow are the most common reason people develop tennis elbow. Repeating some types of activities over and over again can put too much strain on the elbow tendons. These activities are not necessarily high-level sports competition. Hammering nails, picking up heavy buckets, or pruning shrubs can all cause the pain of tennis elbow.
In an acute injury, the body undergoes an inflammatory response. Special inflammatory cells make their way to the injured tissues to help them heal. Conditions that involve inflammation are indicated by -itis on the end of the word. For example, inflammation in a tendon is called tendonitis. Inflammation around the lateral epicondyle is called lateral epicondylitis.
At Back in Action Whistler, our Physiotherapist will do a complete examination and history to determine if you have tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow symptoms are very similar to a condition called radial tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by pressure on the radial nerve as it crosses the elbow. If your pain does not respond to treatments for tennis elbow, your doctor may suggest tests to rule out problems with the radial nerve.
There are other conditions that may present with similar symptoms including ligament injuries and pain referred from the neck. Other elbow conditions include olecranon burisits, cubital tunnel syndrome, biceps and muscle tears and golfer's elbow (which is like tennis elbow but on the other side, ie the front of the elbow).
Our team of expert Sports Physiotherapists will perform special tests on the elbow to determine whether your problem is tennis elbow or one of the other conditions and from there devise the best possible treatment.
Some patients may be referred to a doctor for further diagnosis. Once your diagnostic examination is complete, the clinical specialists at Back in Action Physiotherapy have treatment options that will help speed your recovery, so that you can more quickly return to your active lifestyle.
The key to nonsurgical treatment is to keep the collagen in your tendon from breaking down further. Our goal is to help the tendon heal.
Our Physiotherapists will give you tips on how to rest your elbow and how to do your activities without putting extra strain on your elbow. We may apply tape to take some of the load off the elbow muscles and tendons. Our therapist may advise that you wear an elbow strap that wraps around your upper forearm in a way that relieves the pressure on the tendon attachment.
A full elbow joint assessment is performed and treatment techniques to improve joint glides and mobility performed as necessary.
We may apply ice and electrical stimulation to ease pain and improve healing of the tendon. Our therapy sessions may also include iontophoresis, which uses a mild electrical current or ultrasound to push anti-inflammatory medicine, prescribed by your doctor, into the sore area. This treatment is especially helpful for patients who can't tolerate injections.
Our therapist will also instruct you in exercises used to gradually stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles.
Because tendonosis is often linked to overuse, we will work with you to reduce repeated strains on your elbow. When symptoms come from a particular sport or work activity, our therapist will observe your style and motion with the activity. We may provide tips about how to perform the movement so your elbow is protected. We can also check your sports equipment and work tools and suggest how to alter them to keep your elbow safe.