Kailey Rote, SPT
What is it?
Tennis elbow, also referred to as lateral epicondylalgia, is tendonitis at the extensor tendon of the elbow. Tendonitis occurs when there is irritation or inflammation of a tendon, or where a muscle attaches to bone. This is common in individuals performing a repetitive motion, which repeatedly places the same stress on the irritated tendon. An individual with tennis elbow experiences pain in the soft tissue region at the lateral portion of the elbow or upper part of the forearm.
Someone with tennis elbow might report pain following activity that involves repetitive wrist extension, pain radiating down the forearm, and difficulty or weakness gripping objects. Upon physical examination, multiple findings are present: point-tenderness at the lateral elbow, weak and painful wrist extension, weak grip strength, pain or decreased range of motion into elbow extension, wrist flexion, and a position with the palm facing down and fingers shifted away from the body.
Who does it affect?
Tennis elbow most commonly affects males and females between the ages of 30 and 50 years. Those performing computer work, heavy lifting, repetitive vibration, and repeated wrist extension (ie. manual labor, housework, tennis, musicians, manual wheelchair users, etc.) tend to experience these symptoms. It is often carpenters, painters, electricians, and landscapers that present with this condition as they are repeatedly using the extensor muscles on their dominant side to complete their job.
Risk factors, predisposing one to experience tennis elbow, include: 30-50 years old, manual labor, smoking, carpal tunnel syndrome, DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis, oral corticosteroid therapy, repetitive activities for more than one hour per day.
How is it treated?
Physical therapy treatment is appropriate and often beneficial for those with tennis elbow. Initially, a counter-force brace, to reduce the load on the extensor group, can be placed just past the elbow during painful activities. Deep massage to this region, as well as ultrasound can decrease pain and stimulate an increase in blood flow. Stretching and strengthening (isometric, concentric and eccentric contractions) of the muscles of the forearm promote healing as well. A good place to start is to extend the arm on the affected side (palm down), and with the unaffected hand, pull the hand gently towards your body. Dry needling, performed by certified physical therapists, involves insertion of a fine, sterile needle into the tissue and muscle to promote healing and reduce pain. This technique, along with the previously mentioned treatment approaches, can lead to decreased pain and increased function allowing earlier return to work tasks, sports, and other chosen activities.
If you would like to be treated at Rock and Armor for Tennis Elbow, call 208-917-2660 or visit www.rockandarmor.com
- Wolf , JM. Tennis Elbow: Clinical management. New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media; 2015.
- Etminan Z, Razeghi M, Nezhad FG. The effect of dry needling of trigger points in forearm’s extensor muscles on the grip force, pain and function of athletes with chronic tennis elbow. 2019;6:27-33.