Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, is a condition caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm.
This leads to inflammation and breakdown of the muscles/tendon causing pain around the elbow joint.
Figure 1: Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus & Brevis Muscles
Figure 2: Lateral Epicondylitis
Tennis elbow is a very common injury and is associated with excessive movement at the elbow and wrist. It is thought to be a form of tendinitis.
What has happened to the muscle/tendon?
There are 2 main muscles involved in tennis elbow: Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus and Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis. Their tendons attach to the outside of your elbow joint and sit in your forearm. With repetitive movements and overuse of these muscles, it the tendon goes through a degenerative process. This process is aided further by an incomplete healing response, in an area with poor blood flow & nutrients for healing, causing small tears in the tendon.
What are the symptoms?
Pain associated with tennis elbow usually has a gradual onset, but may come on suddenly such as after a fall. Pain is felt on the bone on the outside of the elbow and you may experience weakness in your wrist. Sometimes a shooting sensation down the forearm is also common while gripping or picking up objects.
How can physiotherapy help with tennis elbow?
A physiotherapist can advise on stretching & strengthening exercises. Strapping and massage, joint mobilisation techniques as well as acupuncture are very helpful in restoring tendon health and reducing pain. Icing & resting your forearm when you can is important. An elbow brace can also be worn to reduce load.