What is Tennis Elbow ?

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful and tender condition of the outer part of the elbow. Other sports and professions can also experience tennis elbow even though it is named after tennis. Any activity which requires repetitive use of the extensor muscles of the forearm can cause tennis elbow. It is often seen in carpenters, other labourers or even office workers.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

  • Pain in the outer part of the elbow and the outer part of the forearm
  • Tenderness over the lateral epicondyle (prominent bone on the outside of the elbow) and the forearm muscles
  • Weakness of the forearm and grip strength
  • Pain with activities that require movements of the wrist (especially extension)
  • Pain with lifting objects (objects can be very light eg. Coffee cup)

Tennis Elbow Causes

  • Tennis elbow is a type of tendinitis (inflammation/swelling of the tendon)
  • Normally develops over time
  • Mainly a result of tendon overuse and poor healing of the tendon leading to repetitive strain injury
  • Repetitive motions will place too much strain on the tendons and can cause microscopic tears in the muscle

Despite the name, tennis elbow can also be a result from the following:

  • Weightlifting
  • Squash
  • Fencing
  • Racquetball
  • Bowling

Tennis elbow can regularly affect people who have hobbies or jobs that require repetitive arm movements or gripping such as:

  • Carpentry
  • Typing
  • Officer workers
  • Factory workers
  • Gardening
  • Cleaners

Difference between Tennis and Golfers Elbow

Both injuries are repetitive strain injuries but are separate conditions. People with tennis elbow will experience symptoms on the outside of the elbow and will affect predominately wrist extension. People with golfers elbow will experience symptoms on the inside of the elbow and will predominately affect wrist flexion.

Semiprofessional and professional athletes in both sports are required to practice their technique over and over again which may lead to repetitive strain injuries. The difference in presentation comes from the different biomechanics needed in each sport. In tennis, a backhand stroke places an incredible amount of force on hand and will require repetitive and forceful wrist EXTENSION. In golf, a normal stroke also places an incredible amount of force on the hand but requires repetitive and forceful wrist FLEXION.

Tennis Elbow Recovery time

Tennis elbow can normally heal effectively with rest. People heal at different rates and it also dependant on the extent of the damage to the tendon. It is important to not rush your recovery. Because the tendon is already in a weakened state, if you try to do things too fast then you may delay your recovery or further damage the tendon.

As a general rule of thumb, you are ready to return to your previous level of activity when:

  • The elbow feels as strong as the other elbow
  • Moving the shoulder, elbow or wrist does not cause any pain
  • Lifting or gripping objects does not cause elbow pain
  • The elbow is no longer swollen

Finding the initial underlying issue is very important in treating tennis elbow. Finding and correcting the issue can prevent the reoccurrence and can be a posture, technique or poor equipment issue.

Tennis Elbow Treatment

  • Rest from activities that stress the forearm extensor muscles or worsen the condition
  • Heat to increase blood circulation
  • Ice immediately after stressful activities
  • Tennis elbow exercises include strengthening and stretching exercises for the muscles of the upper back, shoulder, arm and core
  • Mobilising and adjusting joints of the spine, shoulder, arm and hands

At Fort Healthcare, elbow problems are one of the most commonly treated problems.

Elbow problems can be effectively treated with the Fort Healthcare Premium Care Plan which includes:

  • Consultation with our multi-disciplinary specialist team
  • Techniques to reduce inflammation, swelling and scar tissue adhesions
  • Improve strength
  • Improve range of motion (ROM)
  • Self-management: take home exercise plans and rehabilitation training advice