Are you struggling with pain and tenderness over the outside of your elbow? Discomfort and weakness with gripping and pulling activities? Chances are you have tennis elbow. But you don’t and have never played tennis?
As ironic as it sounds, tennis elbow isn’t necessarily something you get from playing tennis. You don’t need to have spent your weekend wielding a racket to suffer the effects of such a condition. Tennis elbow is the generic name for a condition known as lateral epicondylalgia or extensor tendinopathy. Tennis elbow is common among the tennis players but it is often seen outside of tennis too. A change in your gym routine, long periods spent typing at the computer, an afternoon spent using the garden loppers, are all activities that increase the load on your tendon and can cause tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow is caused by an unaccustomed or sudden increase in loading to the wrist extensor tendons. Repetitive or strenuous gripping activities are common factors in developing tennis elbow. It is characterised by a general ache and soreness around the outside of the elbow, sometimes extending into the forearm and hand. Tendons have a poor ability to adapt to sudden changes in loading. Disruption of the tendon fibres occurs in the tendon causing pain and in some cases weakness. Often a period of rest helps to reduce the symptoms of pain but does not actually treat the cause. Often when people return to activity too early before the tendon has had a chance to strengthen.
Treatment of tendon pain is commonly very slow and problematic to treat. Evidence has provided a background to show that loading these tendons of the elbow is beneficial. However, no one has yet to come up with a clear programme in terms of how much to load, how often or how many reps to perform. Initially, like most injuries, some rest is required to allow the tendon to heal and recover. However, too much rest causes the same problems as doing too much. Confusing right? Allowing a few days rest from aggravating activities can help to begin the rehabilitation process but ultimately, we need to load the elbow up gradually so it can learn to tolerate load again.
Short term modalities such as ice, taping, braces, and manual therapy all help to manage symptoms. These modalities only have temporary effect on the problem. A gradual loading process has been shown to be the most effective method for treating tennis elbow and ensuring the best outcomes. Gradual loading is not as simple as picking up some dumbbells and doing some curls. Working with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, at our Newmarket Physio clinic, can help build a gradual strengthening program so you can continue doing what you enjoy. Modifying how you perform an activity can help avoid continuing to worsen your injury. Our physiotherapists also help to construct an individualised strengthening program to help you strengthen your tendon and build its ability to return to load.
Recently, new research has also shown that avoiding anti-inflammatories for tendon pain is beneficial as inflammation is part of the body’s natural process of healing. Not to say you can’t take general pain relief but try to avoid those with anti-inflammatory properties in them.
Many people are often after a quick fix with issues like tennis elbow so they can return to action as soon as possible. Our experienced physiotherapists will explain that to build a resistance to load, it can take 12 weeks or longer. Quick fixes are not an option when it comes to tendons. Tendon rehabilitation is a marathon race not a 100m sprint. Putting the time into working through the structured exercise program and sticking with it, you will see the benefits and get back to doing what you love. Book an appointment today with one of our highly trained physiotherapists to start your rehab on your tennis elbow.