Roland Garros is now in full swing and Wimbledon is fast approaching…it’s officially the summer tennis season 2018!! Whilst tennis players develop all sorts of injuries, tennis elbow is a problem that can be associated with racket sports such as tennis. However, you don’t have to play tennis to develop tennis elbow.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow. If the muscles and tendons are strained, tiny tears and inflammation can develop near the bony lump (the lateral epicondyle) on the outside of the elbow. Essentially, the condition affects the tendons that extend (straighten) the wrist and fingers. Sufferers can experience pain around the elbow area when lifting or bending the affected arm. However, even simple gripping activity such as lifting a cup or using a pen can become painful. Similarly, turning a door handle or opening a jar can become a problem.
Who develops tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is a common condition. It’s estimated that as many as one in three of us experiences tennis elbow at any given time. Each year in the UK, about five in every 1,000 people go to see their GP about tennis elbow. Men and women are equally affected and the condition commonly affects adults between the ages of 40-60 years. Whilst it can be caused by racket sports, it is commonly associated with direct injury to the elbow area, or, overuse activity. Any manual worker who repeatedly lifts and twists their elbow can develop the problem. This can include decorators, joiners and mechanics. However, even simple activities, such as playing the violin can be the cause.
What can you do to treat tennis elbow and how long will it take?
Tennis elbow is frequently managed effectively with simple self-management. Firstly, it’s important to try and rest the injured arm and stop doing the activity that is causing the problem. Also, holding a cold compress against the elbow, such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, for a few minutes several times a day can help ease the pain. Whilst it is always best to consult with a pharmacist before taking medications, over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol may help reduce mild pain caused by tennis elbow. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen, can also be used with good effect to help reduce inflammation. It’s impossible to predict how long tennis elbow will take to resolve. However, all of the evidence suggests that the sooner it is diagnosed and managed, the quicker it resolves and the better the outcome.
Will physiotherapy help?
If the pain persists, despite self-management, physiotherapy can very often help. The physiotherapist will check for swelling and tenderness, and will carry out some very simple tests, such as asking you to extend your fingers and flex your wrist with your elbow extended. They can usually prescribe some simple exercises and stretches that have been shown to be very effective in the management of tennis elbow. If you are affected by tennis elbow and self-management is not helping, why not book in to see one of our physiotherapy team for prompt and effective help.