Two common elbow complaints are tennis elbow (extensor tendinopathy) and golfer’s elbow (flexor tendinopathy). Although common in tennis players and golfers, they regularly occur from activities unrelated to either sport and are typically labelled ‘overuse’ injuries.
With repetitive stress the tendon which attaches the muscles to the bone becomes damaged and can develop micro-tears. This results in pain, weakness, and can progresses to a tendinopathy (failed healing process of the tendon).
Causes can include overuse or poor technique in sports such as tennis or golf, lifting, carrying, computer use, or playing musical instruments. The neck, upper back and shoulder can all significantly contribute to elbow pain by increasing the load on the elbow if they are not functioning correctly. These other factors must be addressed to reduce your pain and also prevent it from coming back.
Symptoms of tennis elbow can include
- Pain on the outside or inside of the elbow, possibly radiating down the forearm to the wrist.
- Pain with lifting or bending the arm, gripping, or activities such as lifting a cup, opening a door or turning a tap.
- Weakness in the wrist.
- Difficulty straightening the arm.
- Occasionally swelling around the elbow.
To help ease the pain you can try icing, pain relief if required, and physiotherapy. It is important to note the condition is painful but usually harmless and to keep using the arm during the day to promote healing. Restrict overly painful or repetitious activity. An elbow strap for tennis/golfers elbow can be very helpful to offload the tendon attachment and allow healing to occur.
Physiotherapy treatment may initially include techniques to reduce pain such as dry needling and soft tissue release techniques to the forearm muscles, shoulder and neck. Strengthening exercises are also given to stimulate healing and promote recovery. Accurate diagnosis is crucial to the correct management of any elbow pain, patients who receive accurate assessment and early treatment typically respond extremely quickly to physiotherapy treatment restoring normal levels of pain and function.