Tennis elbow: What is it?

What is Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy?

Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy (LET), or “Tennis Elbow” is the most common injury overuse injury in the elbow. Although it is common in tennis players, only about 5% of people with tennis elbow actually get this injury from tennis!

Work places with repetitive arm movements such as hairdressers, carpenters, gardeners, bricklayers, electricians and office jobs commonly present with LET.

This injury is acquired from a sudden increase in contractile overload to the extensor muscles in the forearm which leads to irritation and pain to the common origin point of the extensor tendons.

Commonly, the insertion of extensor carpi radialis brevis is involved.

Common Presentation:

  • Pain on outside of elbow, worse with movements involving wrist extension, pronation/supination, gripping.

  • Insidious onset of pain 24-48 hours after unaccustomed repetitive activity involving wrist extension.

  • Pain radiating up the arm or down the lateral aspect of the forearm

  • Reduced strength and flexibility in wrist extensors

Common Risk Factors:

  • Occupations/sports with repetitive arm/wrist movements

  • Age (40-60 highest incidence)

  • Sudden increase in use of wrist extensors

  • Change in racquet, over hitting or hitting into the wind

Physiotherapy and Treatment for Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy:

Treatment will initially be focused on pain reduction. This can be through use a combination of soft tissue release, manual therapy, dry needling, and taping techniques.

There are also braces which can help to relieve stress on the elbow. Relative rest, ice, analgesics are encouraged initially to encourage healing process. A progressive exercise program involving strengthening and stretching will be crucial to improve tendon loading tolerance.

Working with a Physiotherapist can ensure you are working the muscles at the right intensity so you can return to activity as quickly and safely as possibly. Addressing sport or workplace biomechanics can be useful to modulate the amount of effort the forearm muscles have to do.

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