Tennis Elbow, or otherwise known as extensor tendinopathy can be a frustrating and painful condition. It affects the muscles that extend the fingers and wrist, and typically causes pain on the lateral aspect (outside) of the elbow, where the muscles attach.
- Ache or sharp pain on the outside of your elbow
- Pain with gripping tasks such as wringing out a facewasher
- Pain with twisting movements with the elbow bent
- Pain with extending the finger or wrist
- Tenderness over the lateral epicondyle (bony part on the outside of your elbow)
- Forearm muscle tightness
- Some people suffering from tennis elbow will also have neck pain and stiffness
Causes of tennis elbow
Funnily enough, tennis elbow can occur in anyone, not just tennis players! Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that occurs due to forces or repetitive use of the forearm and wrist, more than what the tissues can handle. Commonly it occurs in people who have repetitive jobs such as a builder who is constantly hammering, a painter who is gripping for prolonged periods of time, or a typist who is repetitively using their wrist and fingers to type. Tennis elbow can also occur due to unaccustomed activity, particularly if it involves repetitive gripping. Poor technique with tennis or golf, as well as weakness through the forearm muscles can also contribute.
How to treat tennis elbow
It is important to remain active, however you should avoid actions or positions that cause significant pain around the elbow, as well as avoiding lifting heavy objects repetitively especially with the palm facing down. Repetitive actions such as pruning in the garden for long periods will aggravate things. The key to managing this is taking breaks between repetitive tasks.
Physiotherapy including techniques such as massage, dry needling and mobilisation techniques can assist in settling the pain. Ice packs, taping and use of a tennis elbow brace can also assist. Specific exercises provided by your physiotherapist will be required in order to gradually increase the tolerance of the tendon to tolerate load and forces, improve strength and prevent recurrence. With a proper physiotherapy rehabilitation program, specific exercises and load management advice, tennis elbow will usually settle- although it can take some time.
Our physiotherapists at Seville Health have years of experience managing tennis elbow, and can help get you on track with recovery with treatment, advice and management tips.
Our top 3 tennis elbow exercises
To get you started, here’s a few of our physio’s favourite exercises for tennis elbow;
1. Holding a light dumbbell, rest forearm on a table. Drop wrist down off edge of table, slowly raise back up to extend wrist. Repeat x10 x2
2. Arm straight in front of you, palm down. Use opposite hand over the top of your wrist, and gently push hand down towards the floor to stretch the forearm muscles. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat x5
3. Holding a dumbbell vertically, slowly rotate forearm side to side allowing your hand to be face down then face up (supination/pronation). Repeat x10 x2.
All exercises should be pain-free. These are generic exercises- we recommend speaking to your physiotherapist at Seville Health to obtain a program specific to your condition.