What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)is a condition in which there is pain where the  tendons of the forearm extensor muscles attach to the elbow, on the lateral epicondyle.  Lateral epicondylitis affects 40-50% of recreational tennis players, most often those aged 35-65 years.  However it is not limited to tennis players and is often reported after a weekend of DIY or gardening, or extended periods of typing or using a computer mouse.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

There is pain felt over the outside of the elbow which often radiates down into the forearm.  Pain worsens when the wrist is extended (bent back) , rotated or with gripping.  Pain often comes on gradually and with the repetitive extension of the wrist or gripping it worsens.

What causes tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is due to degeneration of the tendon fibres resulting from overuse of the muscles (usually the extensor carpi radialis brevis) responsible for extending the wrist.  The degeneration occurs when microscopic tears are incompletely healed within the tendon and are repeatedly stressed.

What factors contribute to tennis elbow in tennis players?

  •  Age 30+

  • Frequency of play

  • Force & flexibility of forearm extensors, eg. Tightness of grip

  • Unskilled players are more prone

  • Racket factors eg. Weight, string tension, grip size & cushioning head

  • Older balls

  • Poor technique

  • Single handed backhand

What can physio do to help with tennis elbow?

Physio can help dramatically with tennis elbow to reduce the symptoms.  Physio can release the tight soft tissues of the extensor muscles, eccentric strengthening exercises and stretching can be taught.  Acupuncture can often produce a reduction in pain.  Tennis elbow bracing or strapping can be applied to de-load the extensor muscles whilst giving the tendon the opportunity to heal.  Your physio will give you a management plan with regards to when and what exercise or activity you should refrain from.

Your physio will also perform a thorough assessment to ensure that it is tennis elbow that you are experiencing.  Similar elbow pain can be referred from the cervical spine.

What should I do if I think I have tennis elbow?

Call  the physio at Back2Balance Physiotherapy to make an appointment on 3352 5311 for an assessment and advice.