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Tennis elbow. What is it, and why does it happen?

Tennis elbow. What is it, and why does it happen?

Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis, due to pain that is felt at the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle). It is here where the extensor muscles of your forearm attach. These extensor muscles are appropriately named because they do just that, EXTEND your wrist.

It is an overuse injury to these extensor muscles that creates the pain felt at the elbow. It is obviously not only tennis players who suffer from this pain, but anyone who is prone to repetitive extension of the wrist. Could be the desk jockey typing away at the keyboard all day, the house cleaner wiping down the counters and windows, bikers with prolonged wrist extension, golfers who hit more of the earth than the ball, or carpenters hammering away just to name a few.

This overuse injury is also made worse with improper shoulder mechanics AKA POOR POSTURE. It has been studied that with dysfunctional shoulder mechanics, greater stress will be loaded distally (further down the arm). 

How do you treat tennis elbow? 

A quick answer would be to loosen tight muscles, adjust proper joints, then strengthen the proper muscles. The extensor muscles get so tight, and pull so hard at the attachment site on the bone that it creates inflammation and micro-tearing. So initially, we need to “release” or loosen the extensor muscles to prevent the extreme pull on the bone. This is performed in the office through a certified hands on therapy called Active Release Technique, ART. 

At home you can try just about anything to get pressure and “massage” these muscles. This will likely NOT feel good, but necessary to loosen the muscles that are ultimately creating your symptoms. The elbow is a joint and can also be adjusted to improve range of motion and help relieve symptoms. Strengthening should also be incorporated. Weak grip strength, and weakness around the shoulder girdle is what will lead to compensation and overuse of this particular muscle group. 


References 

Bhatt, J. B., Glaser, R., Chavez, A., & Yung, E. (2013). Middle and Lower Trapezius Strengthening for the Management of Lateral Epicondylalgia: A Case Report. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 43(11), 841–847. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2013.4659

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