What is it?
'Tennis elbow' or lateral epicondylalgia describes pain located at the bony bump on the outside of the elbow. The extensor muscles of the forearm that move the wrist and hand attach at this point. The pain is most commonly due to a degenerative process in the tendon attachment.
How does it happen?
Tennis elbow's onset is associated with performing repetitive hand and wrist activities such as hammering or tennis. When the extensor muscles move the hand, load is transmitted through the tendon to its bony attachment. With repeated load over time or unaccustomed load the tendon may become degenerative or inflamed. Tennis elbow affects 1-3% of the general population but it affects 15% of people in high risk groups such as process workers.
How does it feel?
The pain is usually described as an aching sensation that develops over time. It is typically worse after activity and may settle with rest. As the problem becomes established pain may limit activities involving gripping or lifting with the hand palm down. With time the pain may become more constant and the elbow may feel stiff or tight.
What should you do?
The problem may settle by itself but it can take up to a year. Early treatment from a Physiotherapist has been proven to speed recovery of the problem. If you suspect you have tennis elbow you should make an appointment with a Physiotherapist as soon as possible.
What shouldn't you do?
You should not continue to do the activity that brought on the pain. You should limit the amount you lift with your palm facing down. You should avoid reaching for things such as your computer mouse. You may need to bring your mouse closer to the front of the desk.
Could there be any long term effects?
In 80% of cases tennis elbow resolves. As the problem is thought to be degenerative in nature, for a small number of people the problem becomes chronic. The earlier you identify the activity that caused the problem and seek treatment the better.
Tennis elbow has been the subject of much research in recent years. Physiotherapy consisting of a specific program of manipulation and exercise has been shown to be beneficial in the majority of cases in the first 6 weeks of treatment. Another common treatment for tennis elbow is corticosteroid injection. Physiotherapy has been shown to result in fewer complications and less likelihood of recurrence than corticosteriod injection. If you believe you have tennis elbow make an appointment to see a physiotherapist.
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3. To prevent injury & increase your ability to manage your pain.
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