What causes Tennis Elbow?

What is Tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is the most common problem of the elbow, thus a very complaint in physiotherapy clinics. Figures from the US suggest that 95% of those suffering from tennis elbow are non-tennis players. The main symptoms of tennis elbow are tenderness over the lateral aspect of the elbow at the insertion of the tendon of the extensor muscles of the wrist and fingers.

What is the cause of Tennis Elbow?

  • Specific strain
  • Overuse
  • Direct trauma to the elbow

Repetitive use and overloading of the muscles of the of forearm and wrist leads to cumulative microtrauma or small tears of the tendons and tissues at the point at which they insert into the humerus on the lateral aspect of the elbow joint. This leads to localised inflammation which is referred to as tendonitis. Symptoms usually have a gradual onset leading to an ache in the lateral elbow. This can become severe enough to stop activities such as tennis and can start in interfere with everyday activities. It is associated with a weakened and painful grip and sometimes morning stiffness.

Risk factors that can lead to tennis elbow/ lateral epicondylitis:

Tennis – poor backhand technique, Incorrect grip size especially if the grip is too small, incorrect string tension and poor racket dampening, insufficient strength in the muscle of the shoulder, elbow, arm and wrist

Non-tennis – repetitive wrist flexion/extension and pronation/supination activities such as using a screw driver, lifting heavy objects with the palm facing downwards, tightly gripping a heavy briefcase.

How can I treat Tennis Elbow?

– Initially it is important to stop the aggravating activity.

– Ice and NSAIDs can be used provided they are not contraindicated by other health conditions

– Taping and the use of an epicondylitis strap is also effective in reducing the strain on the tendons.

– Modifying activities to reduce the risk factors outlined above

Tennis elbow can be a difficult condition to treat and can take a long time to resolve. There is also a risk of recurrence if the cause is not addressed and therapeutic exercise incorporated into the rehabilitation process. It is therefore advantageous to see a chartered physiotherapist at the earliest opportunity to prevent the problem becoming chronic.

For a physiotherapist in Poole, come down and see one of our practitioners at Lilliput Health.