Tennis elbow is a very common complaint among the general population but it can be treated successfully with the correct advice and exercises. In our latest blog post, we’ll explain the best treatment for tennis elbow and the warning signs to look out for.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is a pain in the extensor muscles of the forearm that can be felt on the outside of the arm approximately two inches below the elbow joint. It is an overuse or overload injury of the tendons on the outside of the forearm leading to a condition called tendinopathy. Tendinopathy is when the collagen fibres that make the tendon strong go into disarray making the tendon weaker, unable to cope with the load placed on it and therefore resulting in pain and discomfort. The injury normally builds up over a period or if you have suddenly increased your load, for example, more hours at work or increase time in hobbies that requires gripping such as tennis or squash.
How Tennis Elbow can be managed at home
Tennis elbow is a stubborn and difficult condition to resolve but with the right advice, education, exercises and physiotherapy, the pain can be significantly reduced and eradicated over time. Gripping activities are normally the main cause of initiating and exasperating the symptoms. The best course of action for tennis elbow is to stop all activity that causes pain. If you can’t stop completely then reduce the activity as much as possible.
Increasing your grip width will also cause less tension on the forearm extensor muscles. For example, when using a hammer or a wrench make the handle larger. This, therefore, increases the size of the grip which will reduce the pain felt in the forearm. Grip tape, such as this PU grip tape from Elverys, can help achieve this. Typists can also commonly experience tennis elbow as the muscle that moves the middle and index finger upwards originates from the elbow. When typing make sure you have good typing skills and avoid using the same couple of fingers for hitting the keys or mouse.
Physiotherapy exercises for tennis elbow
There are different exercises and treatment options that can be utilised to treat tennis elbow. See our below videos for examples of exercises.
Stretch your wrist backwards using your other hand and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times daily.
Resist pushing your wrist downwards and hold for 30-45 seconds. This should be at a low level of pain. Repeat four times in a row, every second day.
Hold a tin of beans in the hand of the affected arm. Assist lifting the tin upwards with the good arm. Then lower in a controlled motion, letting the wrist relax slowly downwards. A low level of pain is acceptable here. Complete 12 reps in 3 sets, every second day.
How long will recovery take?
Tennis elbow can be slow to resolve. Recovery time will vary depending on how long you have experienced it and your ability to rest it. For example, if you have experienced tennis elbow for two months, the discomfort should resolve within 6-8 weeks approximately. This can be expected if you can rest from aggravating activity and physiotherapy interventions and home exercises are followed. If the pain has existed for longer, e.g. 12 months, then complete rest from the aggravating activities for 10-12 weeks would be necessary. In addition to physiotherapy interventions and exercises, the pain should reduce considerably by 80-100% within 12-16 weeks.
When should you contact a Physiotherapist?
Early intervention is best so you should contact us within the first 2-3weeks. Tennis elbow might not be terribly irritable to begin with but it gradually worsens over time. Symptoms are commonly ignored in the hope it will go away, but the opposite normally happens. The earlier you can see a Physiotherapist, the faster you will be pain-free again.
Tennis elbow is a common, painful and stubborn condition that affects a wide array of people. The best treatment for tennis elbow is patience, activity modification and rest. If you have any questions regarding your tennis elbow pain please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can also book an appointment online here.