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TENNIS ELBOW

Also know as lateral epicondylitis or lateral elbow tendinopathy

What is it?

Tennis elbow affects the lateral epicondyle of the humerus when the group of muscles that extend your wrist become overloaded and overworked. Women and men between the ages of 35 and 54 years of age tend to be most at risk; and the risk is higher if you have a manual job, are a smoker and tennis player.

Signs and symptoms can range from being very mild but annoying to so severe it can affect your daily life.

Symptoms usually involve anything related to holding or gripping objects in your hand and moving your wrist.

How do I know if I have tennis elbow?

A physiotherapist can perform a series of tests to assess whether you have tennis elbow or not; and whether or not there are other structures involved. Depending on your symptoms and severity, getting your doctor to refer you for an MRI or ultrasound alongside the physical examination can also diagnose tennis elbow and rule out any other structural injury.

What are my options for treatment?

Studies have shown that there is no one right way to treat tennis elbow. Unfortunately it can be one of those annoying conditions that could take up to a year or more to resolve; and even then you are at a risk of getting it again!

But you can help yourself by

  • Initially reducing the activities that aggravate your symptoms such as repetitive wrist movements, lifting heavy objects and working with your wrist in an awkward position
  • Continue gently moving your upper limb so that you don’t get stiff and begin slowly exercising your wrist to strengthen the tendons and muscles
  • Slowly re-introduce painful activities over time as tolerated
  • Physiotherapists can assist in showing you the right exercises and also treating the soft tissue stiffness and pain with manual therapy techniques

Other treatments available:

  • Cortizone injections have been shown to be detrimental in tennis elbow so best avoided.
  • If you have had pain for 3+ months, you can talk to your GP about prolotherapy and nitric oxide patches as they have been shown to help in chronic cases

Tennis elbow can be resolved with time, patience and a little dose of exercise!