- Have you been diagnosed with tennis elbow- and you don’t even play tennis?
- Are you finding it painful after being at the computer, or even with lifting the kettle or a saucepan?
- Have you been trying massage, ice, heat and still not recovering?
Tennis elbow can be a real pain! It can limit your arm strength, your ability to lift and it is common for this condition to become chronic! But what is tennis elbow exactly? (And how come I have it when I don’t actually play tennis?)
Tennis elbow is a common term that is used to indicate a problem with the wrist extensor tendons as they attach up onto the bony point of the elbow. Coined ‘tennis elbow’ as it can commonly occur in tennis players, however there are many people that experience this without ever having picked up a tennis racket.
Let’s explain a bit further….. A tendon is designed to be a thick strong attachment point so a muscle can stick onto a bone. Think of your calf muscle- it is springy and elastic, then toward the heel it turns into a short thick and strong Achilles tendon before attaching itself onto your heel bone. So, you calf muscle is the spring that generates power for you to walk, and the Achilles tendon is the short strong rope that pulls your heel bone to generate push off.
Your forearm muscles are much the same. The springy muscles in the forearm turn into short thick tendons before attaching onto the outer elbow bone. These tendons are supposed to be strong. When they are painful it is common for them to show signs of:
- Weakness, which can be much like a “frayed rope“
- Or, a load/strength imbalance. Much like a see-saw, how much load you are placing on your tendons needs to match how much strength they have. You could have a very strong tendon, but if you try to repeatedly lift something that is beyond its capacity it can start to react and become painful.
In both of these scenarios we have a load management problem and a strength problem.
To resolve this, as a first step you might need to temporarily reduce the load. That means if you are playing 10 games of tennis a week, you might need to cut down. Or it might mean if you have increased your gym lifting program too rapidly, you might need to slow down in order for the tendon strength to recover and catch up. If you are having problems using a mouse at work, it might mean you need your work station assessed, trying a vertical mouse can really help! Like to learn the key tips you need to set up your computer area? Read this checklist here or watch our short video here on how to set up your home office.
The next step is to build on tendon fibre strength in a slow progressive way, so that when you go back to your activities you have a stronger tendon that can cope with the load. Watch this easy beginner exercise for tennis elbow here.
Like to know more about tendon pain? Click here to find out how tendon pain can limit your running.
Remember there can be many reasons for elbow pain, including pain referred from the neck, referral from the thoracic area or thoracic outlet, nerve problems and tendon tears. Ensure you seek an accurate assessment with a qualified physiotherapist who can determine the cause of your pain.
Would you like to know more about what you can do to manage your elbow pain?
Our team here at Synergy Physiotherapy have expertise in the management of chronic conditions. Together our team work in a thorough manner to provide a complete biomechanical assessment of your problem as well as a thorough step-by-step explanation and treatment plan to help you move forward to a healthier happier you! Learn more about our physiotherapy team here!