You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is a common name for a condition we call lateral epicondyalgia. Lateral epicondyalgia is an overuse condition affecting the tendons of muscles on the outside of your elbow. Hence it is also a tendinopathy. Being an overuse condition, if you have pain in this area it means that the load of an activity that you were recently doing exceeded the capacity that these tendons were able to handle.
What are the characteristics of activities that cause overuse tendon injuries?
- An unusual activity- you have never done this before
- An activity that you normally do but suddenly you have significantly increased how much or how often you are doing that activity
Signs and symptoms of tennis elbow
- Often there is little to no pain at rest
- Pain can be aggravated with lifting shopping bags, turning a door knob, typing, gripping, backhanded tennis swing, throwing
- When pain is aggravated it can be sharp and painful
- In the early stages, pain is often felt after doing the aggravating activity, as time goes on it can be come painful during activity as well. More severe cases report constant pain.
- Pain can be worse on waking before it settles and then becomes painful again with aggravating activities
- You may observe some swelling around your elbow
- Pins and needles is not usually a sign or symptom of tennis elbow
What does the science currently say?
- Scans are not needed as signs of tendinopathy can show up on MRI’s and ultrasounds even if the person has never had pain. Scans may also not show any changes to tendon pathology despite resolution of pain and symptoms
- Isometric exercises can help reduce pain to allow us to conduct more strengthening exercises in tendinopathies
How can Physiotherapy help?
Your Physiotherapist will be able to:
- Help you identify aggravating activities
- Guide you through a load management program- what activities you can do or can’t do, how to modify some of the activities that cause you pain
- Provide manual therapy to reduce pain, tightness and improve movement
- Guide you through strengthening exercises to improve the capacity, endurance and strength of these tendons to be able to handle the loads of activities that you need to perform