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What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow (or extensor tendinopathy) is inflammation within the tendons on the outside of the elbow. These tendons connect the forearm muscles to the arm bone. These muscles move the wrist, hand and fingers. Physiotherapy is an effective treatment for tennis elbow.

Active stretches of the shoulder and elbow, assistaed by therapist.Above: Active stretches of the shoulder and elbow, assistaed by therapist.

How does tennis elbow happen?

Tennis elbow is a common injury often caused by repetitive use of the wrist and hand and, therefore, the tendons on the outside of the forearm. These tendons transmit forces produced by the forearm muscles to their origin from the arm bone. Repetitive use of the forearm muscles and, therefore, the forearm tendons can cause microscopic tears. To repair this damage an inflammatory response is created within the tendon.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

A gradual onset of pain is felt on the outside of the elbow and forearm. Initially, it may only be painful following use of the wrist or hand. Stiffness or tightness in the elbow and forearm region may also be present. These early signs of tennis elbow are often ignored, as they quickly disappear with use of the arm or applying heat (i.e. a hot shower) over the elbow and forearm. However, over time, the damage to the tendon progresses and the pain becomes worse. If you continue to use the arm, the tendinopathy usually worsens and your pain may begin to be present for longer periods until it is present all of the time.

Other symptoms may include:

What should I do if I have tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow does not usually get better without treatment. If you have or suspect you have tennis elbow, you should consult your physiotherapist. In the meantime, you can begin initial treatment and apply ice to the painful area. Icing should consist of a bag of frozen peas or crushed ice wrapped in a moist towel applied for 15–20 minutes.

Soft tissue massage and stretch of muscle around the elbowAbove: Soft tissue massage and stretch of muscle around the elbow

Physiotherapy treatment for tennis elbow.

Physiotherapy is very important in the treatment of tennis elbow. Initially, your physiotherapist can diagnose your problem, establish its severity and determine a treatment plan specific to you. This may involve activity modification, electrotherapy, soft tissue treatment such as massage and stretching, and the progression through a series of specific strengthening exercises. The physiotherapists at will also be able to assess and determine why you developed tennis elbow and help prevent a re-occurrence when you return to full activity.

Other physiotherapy options include:

What shouldn’t I do if I have tennis elbow?

If you have or suspect you have tennis elbow you should not ignore it. If your tennis elbow is left untreated for a period of time, your recovery may be prolonged and it could take a number of months for you to return to normal activity.

Could there be any long-term effects from tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow does not produce any long-term effects, as long as it is properly diagnosed and appropriately treated. If not, it can lead to prolonged pain on the outside of the elbow and a prolonged lay-off from normal activity and sport.

To arrange a physiotherapy assessment call on 0330 088 7800 or book online.

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