With an improvement in the weather, activities such as tennis, DIY, and gardening are embarked on with great gusto. As a result, elbow pain, or ‘tennis elbow’ is a common presentation in clinic.
‘Tennis elbow’ was originally named as it was first diagnosed among tennis players using excessive slicing or top spin, causing them to rotate the forearm repetitively. However, it is now a generic term for pain on the outside of the elbow, caused by any repetitive action, for example using a screwdriver, hammer, or spade.
A more accurate and medical term for this condition is ‘lateral epicondylitis’. It is inflammation of the tendons of the wrist and forearm where they attach just above the elbow.
- Pain is localised to the outside of the elbow, but can spread into the forearm.
- Pain is usually aggravated by gripping or lifting activities – even a cup can be enough to cause pain; twisting activities, for example using a screwdriver or opening a jar; bending the wrist or fingers backwards.
- A GP or physiotherapist will diagnose this condition.
- An X-Ray or scan are not necessary.
Tennis elbow usually recovers well with physiotherapy. The therapist will use a variety of different techniques including deep massage, stretching, and electrotherapy.
Acupuncture is very effective, and can be used by the physiotherapist if they have the appropriate training, or by an acupuncturist.
A home regime is usually prescribed, consisting of relevant stretching and strengthening exercises, and advice concerning your chosen activities. Where appropriate, advice relating to type of grip, technique, and size of implement eg. a tennis racquet, may be given.
The GP may prescribe some anti-inflammatory medication.
If conservative treatment is not effective, the GP may recommend a cortisone injection.
Other sources of elbow pain
It is very easy to diagnose any elbow pain as ‘tennis elbow’ or ‘lateral epicondylitis’.
Unfortunately, there are several other structures that can either cause pain in the elbow, or refer pain to the area, for example, the neck, mid-spine, shoulder, nerves, or bones and joints that make up the elbow complex.
A thorough assessment will either eliminate these structures from the equation, or ensure that they must be addressed in order to gain a full recovery.
This is the type of condition that tends to worsen and become more difficult to treat if left. An early visit to the GP and/or physiotherapist will assist in a quicker and more efficient recovery.
If you have any further queries on tennis elbow or would like some advice, please contact me using the contact page.