Tennis Elbow

What Exactly Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow is known by a number of names including lateral epicondylitis, lateral elbow tendinopathy, lateral epicondylosis.

Whilst tennis players make up 10% of people affected, tennis elbow is more commonly seen with repetitive activities such as computer or manual work. It can also occur with a sudden increase in load or longer duration of an activity than what is usual as well as incorrect technique.
It occurs equally in males and females and can occur in the dominant or non-dominant arm.

What Are The Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

Pain is usually felt just above, at the outside of the elbow and in the top outside part of the forearm. It can refer from the tendons at the elbow which bend the wrist and finger back and further down the forearm to the muscle belly(s). It can be aggravated by turning the hand over or lifting when with the hand palm down or in an awkward position. Often there is pain and weakness with strong grip.
Pain can vary from intermittent and low grade to continuous and severe causing loss of sleep.
Changes in the tendon have been found to be more characteristic of irregularities and wear rather than an inflammatory process.

How Is Tennis Elbow Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is predominantly based on clinical history and examination by a qualified physiotherapist. There are many causes of pain in the elbow region which can mimic tennis elbow. For example: referral from a nerve being pinched in the neck or near the elbow, ligament strain or arthritis of the elbow.

All the physiotherapists at Tuggerah Physiotherapy Centre have qualifications, training and a special interest in the treatment of the hand and upper limbs. Our physiotherapists can screen for other causes of elbow pain and are experienced in customizing treatment to each individual as no two injuries are the same.

What Methods Are Used To Detect Tennis Elbow?

An X Ray can be helpful if there are concerns elbow arthritis or bone fracture may be causing the pain.

An Ultrasound can show changes in the soft tissue such as tendon irregularities, thickening or thinning.

If further detail is required an MRI may be used and this is more expensive.

Findings in investigations do not always correlate with clinical symptoms. The clinical examination is important to identify which of the findings are relevant.

What Are The Treatments For Tennis Elbow?

  • Relative rest is important initially to enable symptoms to settle.
  • Manual therapy techniques and pain relieving modalities assist with settling symptoms.
  • Guidance with graduated stretches and strengthening exercises including customized instructions on how and when to progress
  • Guidance with unloading sensitive structures including taping techniques and use of braces.
  • Review of causative factors and addressing these to prevent recurrence for example review of sports equipment such as tennis racquet and technique, review and modifications to training regimes, review of workstation, workload, posture and technique.
  • Guidance with graduated return to work or sport and strategies to prevent recurrence.
  • Follow up to ensure successful management of tennis elbow symptoms in the longer term