Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is the most common injury of the elbow. It affects 3% of the middle-aged population, and although it is called tennis elbow it most commonly occurs in desk workers, secretaries, tradesmen and medical professionals. It is caused by incorrect computer use, housework, heavy lifting, repetitive work with fine tools and vibrating equipment.
What causes the pain in tennis elbow?
Although it is medically called lateral epicondylitis which refers to an inflammatory process, inflammation is only seen in the early stages of the condition. What is occurring is the breakdown of one of the elbow tendons and micro-tears developing over time. These micro-tears and degeneration of the tendon lead to physiological changes, resulting in decreased blood flow and altered mechanics of the elbow, which develops into the painful condition known as tennis elbow.
How can you prevent tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury, meaning too much repetition of the same activity in an incorrect way. If, for example, you use a computer and mouse make sure your hand and wrist are in neutral positions and perform gentle stretches of the forearm a couple of times throughout the day. If you are performing repetitive activities such as housework or using fine tools, take 10-minute breaks every so often and have a forearm exercise routine that you can complete a few times a week. Having a preventative therapeutic massage of the neck, shoulders and arms can also be beneficial.
What are the best treatments for tennis elbow?
Most importantly, the activity or action that is causing the pain needs to be stopped. Evidence suggests that the most effective treatment is an exercise regime that includes eccentric exercises and stretches. Dry needling, friction massage and shock wave therapy have also shown good results. Other influencing factors that need to be assessed and possibly treated include the neck and shoulder as they can influence the mechanics that occur further down the arm.
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