What is Tennis Elbow?
The term “Tennis Elbow” is commonly used to describe pain located at the lateral aspect of the elbow. It is usually caused by overuse of muscles at the elbow that produces wrist extension (namely the extensor carpi radialis brevis – the ECRB), which leads to small tears and scarring of the muscles.
Signs and Symptoms
Interestingly, many people suffer from Tennis Elbow don’t actually play tennis. It could happen to any individuals whose daily activities involve repetitive wrist extension or hand gripping, such as badminton or squash players, typists, or sewers.
Symptoms of this condition may include:
- Diffuse pain over lateral elbow just below the lateral epicondyle;
- Reduced grip strength;
- Reduced ability to lift a heavy object; or
- In racquet game players, reduced ability to perform a backhand.
- Some people with tennis elbow also experience tingling sensation or numbness spreading over the forearm and hand.
What else may cause elbow pain?
It is important the Tennis Elbow is diagnosed correctly for the proper treatment. Other causes of medial /lateral elbow pain may include nerve entrapment, ligament strain, radiohumeral joint synovitis, radiohumeral joint bursitis, or pain referred from neck. Your medical professional will be able to perform tests eliminate the other possible diagnosis.
The other side of the coin
Golfer’s Elbow, on the other hand, refers to pain on the inside of the elbow. The pathology and treatment of this condition are similar with Tennis Elbow except that the muscles involved now are located on the inside of the elbow.
How it is treated
Treatment of Tennis Elbow usually starts with control of the pain, such as:
- Therapeutic ultrasound, heat-retaining braces;
- Soft tissue therapies like deep tissue massage, trigger point treatment, myofacial release;
- Stretching of the tight wrist muscles;
- Specific mobilization techniques combined with gripping exercises;
- Taping, corticosteroids injection, and acupuncture are sometimes helpful;
- Neck and nerve mobilization can also be considered if necessary.
Strengthening of the wrist muscles can be initiated soon after the pain is better controlled. Muscles that produce wrist extension or wrist flexion need to be both addressed.
- Focus should be put to achieve good control of the wrist to prevent wrist from functioning at extreme ranges, either into extension or flexion;
- Racquet technique needs to be carefully assessed to correct any technical faults, especially wrist arm control in back hand strokes;
- Encouraging gripping that focuses on hand muscles (the Duck grip), rather than gripping that only focuses on forearms muscles (the Finger grip).