Tennis Elbow at Work?
Tennis elbow is a common work-relevant condition often seen in occupational health clinics and is due to irritation and inflammation of the wrist extensor tendons, which attach at the outer aspect of the elbow. Symptoms include tenderness on the outer aspect of the elbow with pain sometimes travelling towards the wrist, stiffness in the morning or after rest until it is ‘warmed up’, and worsening of symptoms with repetitive use of the wrist and forearm. You may also notice some redness and thickening around the outer aspect of the elbow.
What causes Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow primarily occurs when the wrist extensor tendons are repetitively overused, causing an overload on the tendons. This commonly results from activities involving repetitive use of the upper arm including computer/keyboard use, lifting, gripping and rotational movements such as using a screwdriver. These movements are often associated with activities in the workplace so if you are suffering from frozen shoulder at work you may need to seek help.
It could also develop as a result of a muscle imbalance and stiffness elsewhere in the body, for example a weakness in the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder could lead to overcompensating with the elbow, therefore leading to overuse and increased strain, and is often associated with poor working postures.
What can I do?
The majority of tennis elbow can be treated conservatively with physiotherapy treatment and advice, however, your attitude and the actions you take are the most important factors in preventing long-term problems. The most effective way to manage symptoms of tennis elbow are to
- Identify what factors may be contributing to your pain (eg slumped postures, repetitive use of the arm at home or work, smoking and stress) and modifying your activity to try to minimise these factors.
- Talk to your GP or pharmacist about what pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication may be right for you. If your pain is controlled, you will be able to maintain more movement, while anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen would help to reduce inflammation.
- Apply an ice pack (wrapped in a towel) to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Report any issues to your line manager immediately so they can make any necessary work-related changes.
How can physiotherapy help?
At Physiotherapy Matters, our physiotherapists can conduct a thorough assessment to confirm the diagnosis and work with you to help you manage pain and return to normal activity by
- Helping you understand your condition
- Helping identify the factors that may be aggravating your symptoms
- Providing advice on how to minimise your aggravating factors
- Completing ergonomic workplace assessments to minimise any work-related risk
- Develop symptom management strategies so you always feel in control
- Provide an individualised exercise program to address the symptoms, progressively strengthen the tendons to improve their ability to tolerate load, and address any muscle imbalances or stiffness away from the elbow that may be contributing to symptoms.
- Provide additional manual therapies that may help ease symptoms, such as
- Taping to improve postural awareness and reduce the amount of load/compression on the tendon and therefore relieve pain.
- Soft tissue massage to reduce any muscular tension in the forearm.
- Mobilisation of the upper back to reduce any stiffness that may be causing altered posture and movement patterns at therefore causing increased stress on the tendon.
- Acupuncture for reduction of pain and inflammation
- Refer for additional services if required including
- Shockwave therapy – to improve the healing processes
- Corticosteroid injection – to reduce pain and allow exercise management
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