wellbeing-brand-logo

Inspired living

Tennis elbow: why you don't have to be an athlete to suffer from it


Tennis elbow

Credit: istock

Tennis elbow is one of the common injuries I treat in practice. You might be surprised to know that more often than not, it’s not actually tennis that causes it.

Tennis elbow is a type of tendinopathy (meaning injury to a tendon).  The forearm muscles that bend our wrist backwards (such as during tennis) attach to the outer side of our elbow. Repetitive use of these muscles tug on the tendon where it attaches to the bone, leading to swelling and damage.

Other people at risk of developing tennis elbow are (not surprisingly) carpenters, locksmiths and electricians, but also (surprisingly) desk workers, gym junkies and new mums.

Other people at risk of developing tennis elbow are (not surprisingly) carpenters, locksmiths and electricians, but also (surprisingly) desk workers, gym junkies and new mums.

Tennis elbow does not discriminate. It is a type of repetitive strain injury (RSI), and will happen to anyone who repetitively overloads the tendons of the elbow. This can be through carrying, typing, twisting or sports.

Acute tennis elbow (has been there only a couple of weeks) is relatively easy to treat. Some rest, soft tissue massage to forearms and upper arms and anti inflammatory medication where needed might be enough to get on top of it.

Chronic tennis elbow (there for longer than a few weeks) is a different kettle of fish. It’s frustrating to treat (and even more so to experience!) as it will often get 90% better and then relapse due to people feeling better and overdoing it.

Chronic tennis elbow usually means that the tendon has become damaged, and less elastic than usual.

Tennis elbow can take anywhere from 4 to 18 weeks to get better from the point at which treatment is started, so if you have a niggling elbow, get it seen to ASAP.

It might have some microscopic tears or fraying, meaning that it’s a lot less resilient to normal day to day activity than a normal elbow would be. This means that little things like picking up the kettle might aggravate it.

We treat chronic tennis elbow by using a brace or strap that sits just below the elbow. This brace helps to take the pressure and load away from the injured tendon, making it easier to rest.

We also prescribe exercises to help to build up some elasticity and strength in the tendon so that it is less susceptible to damage. Usually stretching will be a big no-no at this stage, as stretching can sometimes squeeze the fluid out of the tendon, making it more prone to tearing or fraying.

Tennis elbow can take anywhere from 4 to 18 weeks to get better from the point at which treatment is started, so if you have a niggling elbow, get it seen to ASAP.

Advice upon how to properly rest, properly exercise and avoid aggravating activities will prevent your pain from setting in!

Until next time,

Claire



 

Claire Richardson | WELLBEING COMMUNITY BLOGGER

Dr Claire Richardson loves what osteopathy offers her patients and how it can help people of all different ages and backgrounds. Claire treats a wide range of patients, from the young through to the elderly, including office workers, athletes, pregnant women and tradesmen. Claire enjoys treating all musculoskeletal ailments, from sports injuries to postural problems. She employs a wide variety of techniques in her treatment, including soft tissue massage, dry needling, and joint and muscle manipulation where appropriate. As part of her treatments, Claire advises on contributing lifestyle factors such as activity and diet which enables her patients to have an optimal and speedy recovery.