Tennis elbow is technically known as Lateral epicondylitis. Many people learn the hard way that tennis elbow is not limited to tennis players.’
The backhand swing in tennis can strain the muscles and tendons of the elbow in a way that leads to tennis elbow. However, many other types of repetitive activities can also lead to tennis elbow; painting, hammering and using many types of hand tools. Any activities that repeatedly stress the same forearm muscles can cause symptoms of tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow causes pain that starts on the outside bump of the elbow, the lateral epicondyle. The forearm muscles that bend the wrist backwards (the extensors) attach on the lateral epicondyle and are connected by a single tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bone.
When you bend your wrist back or grip with your hand, the wrist extensor muscles contract. The contracting muscles pull on the extensor tendon. The forces that pull on these tendons can build when you grip things, hit a tennis ball in a backhand swing in tennis, or do other similar actions.
Overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm and elbow are the most common reason people develop tennis elbow. Repeating some types of activities over and over again can put too much strain on the elbow tendons. These activities are not necessarily high-level sports competition. Hammering nails, picking up heavy buckets or pruning shrubs can all cause the pain of tennis elbow.
The main symptom of tennis elbow is tenderness and pain that starts at the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. The pain may spread down the forearm. It may go as far as the back of the middle and ring fingers. The forearm muscles may also feel tight and sore.
The pain usually gets worse when you bend your wrist backward, turn your palm upward, or hold something with a stiff wrist or straightened elbow. Grasping items also makes the pain worse. Sometimes the elbow feels stiff and won’t straighten out completely.
The first step in treating tennis elbow is avoiding the activity that caused the problem. Your health provider may be able to show you how to do your activities without putting extra strain on your elbow.
A common short term sports medicine treatment is to tape the elbow to take some of the load off the elbow muscles and tendons. A longer term treatment may mean you need to wear an elbow strap that wraps around the upper forearm in a way that relieves the pressure on the tendon attachment.
Deep muscle work is sometimes performed to help breakdown scar tissue and adhesions which form in the muscles and tendons. Treatment sessions may also include phonophoresis, which is the use of ultrasound to enhance the delivery of anti-inflammatory agents through the skin into the tissues.
Acupuncture is often also often used to help stimulate healing of the damaged tendon and muscles. Difficult cases may be treated with shockwave therapy, a treatment that uses sound waves to stimulate healing in tissues.
Exercises are used to gradually stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles. When symptoms come from a particular sport or work activity, you may be given tips about how to perform the movement so the elbow is protected.
Chiropractic treatment for tennis elbow includes an additional treatment different from other health fields. Chiropractic manipulation can help restore the normal alignment and motion of the elbow joint.
This is sometimes called closed reduction manipulation. Chiropractors have found that it is important to manipulate and stretch capsular joint restrictions during the treatment phase.