By Liam Neyland
So, what is it?
Lateral epicondylitis, or more commonly known as 'tennis elbow', is a condition where the tendons of the elbow become inflamed
resulting in pain occurring during certain motions or during restful periods. Despite the name ‘tennis elbow’ this condition is quite common among the general population and is not exclusive to athletes. The pain that people feel when suffering from tennis elbow occurs most commonly at the bony bump located on the outside of your elbow where the tendons of the extensor muscles attach. This pain can be quite erratic with some presentations only at the elbow, or at both the elbow and other areas such as the forearm and wrist.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom that presents when suffering tennis elbow is pain, along with a decreased grip strength either due to pain or generalised weakness. The pain experienced from tennis elbow can range from either a burning sensation, sharp, stabbing and or a dull ache just to name a few examples. A major indicator of tennis elbow is experiencing pain when performing tasks such as holding a cup of coffee, turning a door knob and or shaking someone's hand.
What causes it?
The most common cause of tennis elbow is simply the overuse of the extensor muscles. When performing repetitive actions such as typing, using hammers or playing a musical instrument these motions can result in the tendons of the extensor muscles becoming inflamed. This normally is not an issue as the body will naturally repair any damage done to the tendon. However, if the tendon is not allowed ample time to heal this inflammation can progress to microscopic tearing. This in turn makes the pain experienced more pronounced and or generalised along the forearm, and increases the time needed to properly heal.
How is it diagnosed?
The most time efficient and simple way to determine if you may be suffering from tennis elbow is to have a physical exam performed. These exams can be performed by Doctors and most if not all Manual Therapists such as Osteopaths. After these examinations it is not uncommon for a Doctor or the Manual therapist to suggest some form of x-ray or MRI. These tests are mostly used to help identify any factors that should be considered before commencing treatment such as calcification of the tendon or to simply confirm the diagnosis.
How can an Osteopath help?
An Osteopath can implement a wide range of treatment options that are dependent on the stage of the condition as well as how complicated it is. For early stages advice and lifestyle changes are normally implemented along with hands on treatment such as soft tissue or myofascial release to name a few. For more advanced stages of the condition the previous treatments can still be used but would be implemented in conjunction with rehabilitation programs that may or may not involve the use of other treatment methods such as dry needling.
If you have been suffering from elbow pain and this sounds familiar to you, the Osteopaths at HMC Osteopathy are happy to help you and are equipped with knowledge and experience to treat any and all complaints.
Lateral Epicondylitis - Physiopedia (physio-pedia.com) , Tennis elbow - PMC (nih.gov), Tennis elbow | healthdirect
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