What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is one of the most common overstrain syndromes characterized by pain and tenderness in the area outside the elbow. It occurs in response to the excessive activity of the extensor muscles of the forearm that overload and create inflammation in the tendons of these muscles.
The name comes from the fact that it often occurs in tennis players due to specific movements and loads on the extensors of the forearm when holding the racquet and playing tennis.
But, tennis is the cause of tennis elbow only in 5% of cases, in the other 95% of cases, it is other specific repetitive activities and occupations. The most common professions in which tennis elbow occurs are foresters, painters, car mechanics, plumbers, ceramists, cooks, bricklayers, factory workers, shoemakers, surgeons, and dentists.
Symptoms and diagnosis of tennis elbow
- pain in the area of the outside of the elbow
- swelling in the area outside of the elbow
- pain when moving the elbow joint
- difficulty performing work and daily activities due to pain in the elbow area
- redness in the area outside of the elbow
- reduced strength in the hand
- difficulty turning keys in the lock
- weakness of grip when shaking hands
- pain in the elbow during sleep
- medical history - to determine whether there is an old injury or deficit in the area of the elbow joint
- clinical examination - a physiotherapist or a medical doctor perform a detailed examination of the elbow joint to determine the level of pain and how much mobility is reduced in the joint
- EMNG - the conduction of impulses along the nerves of the arm is checked and at what speed they are carried out, the electrical activity of the affected muscles in the elbow area can also be checked
- X-ray – is performed to determine the potential presence of arthritis in the area of the elbow joint
- MRI - is done specifically on the cervical spine to check for the presence of disc protrusion that compresses nerves that extend into the elbow area
Physical therapy and rehabilitation
Goals of physical therapy in tennis elbow:
- reduce / eliminate pain in the elbow area and surrounding muscles
- reduce / eliminate swelling in the area outside the elbow
- restore normal and painless mobility in the elbow joint
- restore the full strength of the hand and the forearm
- allow the patient to return to work without pain and restrictions
- dry needling - we use it to relax hypertonic (too tense) muscles of the forearm, which are the main culprits of tennis elbow syndrome, and also to stimulate the regeneration of tendons of the same muscles
- medical flossing - we do compression with rubber bands to relieve movement, reduce pain and increase the function in the elbow joint
- kinesiotaping - serves as an auxiliary technique to maintain and enhance the effects of dry needling, medical flossing and targeted therapeutic exercises
- stretching exercises – we use them to release muscles and increase the flexibility of the forearm extensors to reduce pressure on the elbow joint and increase mobility
- strengthening exercises - at the end of the rehabilitation we work on the strength of the extensor of the forearm so that the muscles are ready for more difficult activities and the syndrome does not return
Frequently asked questions about tennis elbow:
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: although it often appears in tennis players, they are only 5% of the population affected by tennis elbow syndrome. The other 95% are workes and other specialists that require repetitive intense forearm muscle activity during work.
If you rest for a long time and do not strain the extensors of the forearm, the inflammation can calm down and the elbow can heal.
But in our opinion, it is a much better option to contact a physiotherapist who will significantly speed up the recovery process and guide you on how to make sure that the syndrome never comes back.
The best prevention of tennis elbow syndrome is to keep the muscles of the forearm strong and flexible. This means to regularly stretch and strengthen the muscles so that there is no possibility for the same overload and for extensor tendons to become inflamed.