How to Manage Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow (or Lateral Epicondylalgia) causes pain which can refer down the forearm from the elbow. This condition occurs due to an overuse of one of the tendons around the elbow. A variety of activities can cause this issue not just tennis. Any activity that involves gripping or wrist extension can cause “Tennis Elbow”. Sports that involve the upper limbs and jobs that involve manual labor most commonly cause this problem, but the condition can also occur in office jobs when sitting for long periods of time. Repetitive light tasks like using a mouse while sitting down may also result in developing Tennis Elbow
Treatment for this condition involves taking load off the tendon and reducing the amount of stress we place through the elbow during activities. Once the volume and intensity of activities that cause pain are decreased to a point that symptoms are stable and not increasing it is important to re-load the tendon. This needs to be done in a controlled way so that the increase in weight and repetitions does not increase pain significantly, and result in further irritation. This can be done through monitoring pain during and after exercise and not exercising beyond lower levels of pain. This will allow the tendon to heal, remodel and cope with increased amounts of load. Depending on the sport or ergonomic set up the biomechanics can be altered to take pressure off the tendon also.
When ‘off loading’ the tendon, it is important to note that the muscle in the painful area can become tight as well as the muscles in the surrounding areas, which can cause more pain and contribute to increased tendon load. These muscles can be stretched, massaged or taped to relieve tightness and load on the tendon. Surrounding muscles can be strengthened in order to further take load off the tendon to ensure that correct biomechanics are being used to further reduce load on the tendon. Taping the area often lowers pain as well by reducing load through the tendon. Once the tendon has healed and normal activities have been resumed it is important not to increase the volume of exercise too quickly so that the risk of re-injury can be reduced. Your physiotherapist would expertly guide you through the loading process to ensure proper tendon development without aggravation.