Getting a Grip on Tennis Elbow
What is it?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylopathy, is a common cause of pain on the outside of the elbow. It’s often the result of overuse of the muscles on the back of the forearm and elbow caused by repetitive activities, such as swinging a racquet, turning a screwdriver or typing on a keyboard. This overuse causes added strain on the tendons of these muscles and often results in pain in the elbow region.
Can it get better?
There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that tennis elbow does usually respond well to treatment. The bad news is that it often takes longer to get better than a lot of other health problems. The main reasons for this are that the tendons have a poor blood supply and people often continue the repetitive activities that led to the dysfunction. These reasons make it all the more important to get it treated quickly and to follow the directions of a healthcare provider.
How is tennis elbow treated?
Effective treatment involves a combination of manual therapies and rehabilitation exercises that reduce the load on the injured tendon. In the office, soft tissue therapy combined with elbow and shoulder mobilizations may be used, while the patient will be given at-home strengthening exercises to address specific strength imbalances. Many patients also benefit from the use of acupuncture, which may be used to increase blood flow and decrease pain. Additionally, there are bracing devices that can decrease the pressure put on the injured tendon. If a brace is recommended, it’s important to only wear it during strenuous activities to prevent a loss of strength or motion. If a patient is experiencing a high level of pain, he or she may want to discuss the potential use of an anti-inflammatory with a medical doctor.
What else could it be?
There are numerous conditions that mimic tennis elbow, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis if you are experiencing pain around the elbow. Sometimes shoulder or neck conditions can make a person feel pain in the elbow region, even though that may not be the problem area. These can include conditions such as nerve entrapment syndromes and referred pain from muscles, as well as numerous other causes. That’s why it is very important to get a qualified health professional to diagnose your elbow pain to make sure the treatment plan is right for you.
The Final Word
Tennis elbow is a relatively common cause of elbow pain that can affect anyone performing repetitive work. Once properly diagnosed, it can often be treated effectively by a skilled practitioner through the use of soft tissue therapy, joint mobilizations, acupuncture and at-home exercises.