Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
By SUMMIT’s Hand Therapists: Kay Neldon, OTR/L, CHT & Colleen Caton, OTR/L
“I went to the doctor because my arm hurts and the doctor says I have Tennis Elbow. I don’t play tennis, so why does the doctor say I have Tennis Elbow?”
- Tennis Elbow, or Lateral Epicondylitis, is a condition where there is an injury or overuse to one or more of the muscles that straighten your wrist and fingers. Several important muscles have their beginning around the bony area at the outside edge of your elbow and they can be injured or worn out with forceful or repetitive use. Lateral Epicondylitis got its nickname “Tennis Elbow” because many tennis players overuse these muscles with high force and repetition to play tennis. More often, however, the person who is suffering from Lateral Epicondylitis may not play tennis but may be using the arm strenuously in handling tools, homemaking, yard work, extended keyboard use, lifting weight, or participating in sports.
- Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
The stiffness, dull ache, or sharp pain may be sudden or it may increase gradually over a period of time. The discomfort is usually located around the top outer edge of the smaller bony spot of your elbow and may extend down into the muscles on the top side of your forearm. Numbness or tingling is not usually a symptom of Lateral Epicondylitis and should be discussed with your physician.
- Causes of tennis elbow:
Lateral Epicondylitis is most often provoked by doing activities that require repetitive and/ or stressful hand, wrist, or forearm movements/ positions. Some examples might be:
-Gripping forcefully and pushing/pulling hand tools
-Digging in the garden
-Chopping up large amounts of food
-Lifting heavy or light objects repetitively (or sometimes just once) with palm-side down
-Using computer mouse for a long period of time without taking a break
- “How do I get rid of Tennis Elbow?”
Early management might include avoiding the activities that provoke the discomfort, resting the arm, applying cold to the affected area, gentle stretches, and anti-inflammatory medications. After the symptoms improve, continuing treatment might include gentle massage for increased blood flow and gentle stretching to muscles. If symptoms do not go away, you may need to consult a physician. A Tennis Elbow strap may be useful in some cases, but correct placement and adjustment of the strap is extremely important; a badly placed strap may provoke additional problems and make the situation worse.
- At Summit Physical Therapy and Rehab, therapy is provided by either a Physical Therapist or an Occupational Therapist. Treatment may include pre-fabricated or custom wrist orthoses (splints), soft tissue mobilization, nerve gliding, specific and graded stretching, prescribed muscle strengthening, modalities to improve comfort and promote tissue healing, and education to improve your function and reduce your risk of re-injury.
Please feel free to leave a comment or question- our SUMMIT therapists are here to help and educate you!