You don’t have to be Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams to get tennis elbow; in fact, you don’t even have to play tennis to develop tennis elbow pain! While racquet sports are commonly associated with tennis elbow, it can also develop due to other repetitive motions and overuse of your wrists and forearms. If you notice pain on the outside of your elbow that radiates into your forearm or wrist then you may have what’s commonly referred to as tennis elbow. There are a number of treatment options available for tennis elbow, including physiotherapy.
The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis due to inflammation of a specific tendon called the lateral epicondyle. This tendon connects your elbow and your forearm muscles. When this tendon becomes inflamed it can cause elbow pain and discomfort, especially when practicing certain movements and motions that are common in your daily life, like carrying or gripping something.
Tennis Elbow Causes
As one of the most common conditions chiropractors treat, tennis elbow is most often caused by overuse of your forearm muscles that you use when straightening and raising your hand and wrist, which can even cause little tears in the tendons. Repetitive motions that put too much stress on the muscles and tendons from your forearms to your wrists can cause inflammation as well. While commonly associated with sports, tennis elbow can also be common among people whose jobs involve repetitive arm and wrist motions like painters, plumbers, and cooks.
Treating Tennis Elbow
Mild cases of tennis elbow can get better on their own, but when these repetitive motions are part of your job or your daily activities then it can be difficult to experience lasting relief from the pain. Effective treatment for tennis elbow will focus on addressing the root cause and providing you with tools to help you prevent tennis elbow in the future.
The classic R.I.C.E. treatment is often the first step people take to treat pain from an overuse injury. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, which are four steps in taking care of an injury at home. Resting is key to allowing your muscles and tendon time to heal and for any inflammation and swelling to go down. Resting also means avoiding the activity that was causing your elbow pain. Icing the area also helps to reduce swelling and pain. Compression can involve wrapping or bracing the affected elbow to help with swelling and give your aggravated muscles and tendons support while they rest and heal.
2. Adjusting Your Technique
If tennis or another activity is causing your tennis elbow then you may need to adjust your technique. You may need to work with a trainer to practice a better backhand tennis stroke and make sure you are using proper form and technique. Or a wrist brace might help if your occupation requires you to perform a lot of repetitive wrist movements. Additionally, taking pain medications may temporarily provide you some relief from the pain, but adjusting your technique and committing to physiotherapy can provide you more lasting relief.
3. Physiotherapy Stretches
Physiotherapy stretches will help you ease back into moving your arm, elbow, and wrist in ways that will help decrease pain and inflammation. Your doctor or physical therapist may recommend certain stretches that will help to gently and safely improve your range of motion in your forearm, elbow, and wrist. Stretching also helps to improve your flexibility and encourage more oxygen-rich blood flow to the affected area. Physiotherapy stretches can also help prepare your muscles and tendons for therapeutic exercises to help with your tennis elbow.
4. Physiotherapy Exercises
There are many physiotherapy exercises designed to help address tennis elbow. Once the initial swelling and inflammation have gone away, your doctor can talk to you about physiotherapy exercises that will help strengthen your muscles and tendons in your forearms. When your muscles get stronger, they are able to better withstand repetitive motions that generally lead to tennis elbow. These types of exercises also help improve your flexibility and range of motion. Some common exercises will help to improve your grip and wrist strength.
If you struggle with tennis elbow, the team at AICA Orthopedics in College Park can talk with you about various physiotherapy treatment options that will work best for you. No matter whether you’re an avid tennis player, our team of specialists is here to help anyone struggling with tennis elbow find lasting pain relief.