What is a Tennis Elbow?

A tennis elbow or a golfer’s elbow are injuries concerning the tendons. This usually happens due to overuse injuries. Tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the elbow muscles often get overstretched or overused due to occupation-related reasons or while playing a sport. 

Tennis elbow is known as lateral elbow pain and is not related to the sport that it is named after. It can happen to anyone if they make repeated arm motions that affect the tendons. Although, sportspersons like tennis players or golfers might get this disease as they constantly use the elbow muscle causing a repeated case of a tennis elbow. Almost all tennis players have had a case of tennis elbow in their career. 

This can also affect if you are between the ages of 30 to 50, as your joint health begins to deteriorate. Physiotherapy for elbow pain, supportive devices, compression equipment, and steroid injections are used to treat this. Certain targeted exercises and muscle strengthening can help prevent this in the long term. If you are affected by tennis elbow, then the most common symptom that you may be facing is pain on the upper bend of your arm, below the elbow. In some cases, the pain also trickles down to your wrist and fingers.

What Are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

The symptoms of tennis elbow are the following- 

  • Pain when trying to lift something.
  • Swelling and inflammation around the elbow joint. 
  • Pain and tenderness around the elbow. 
  • Reduced range of motion and mobility in your forearm. 
  • Discomfort when practicing daily tasks. 
  • Unable to raise your arm straight without pain. 

What are the Causes of Tennis Elbow?

The usual suspect behind a tennis elbow is overuse and repeated incorrect movements of your forearm. This leads to ligaments, muscle stretch, and even tiny tears forming near the tendons of the elbow. The causes of tennis elbow are listed down below- 

Incorrect movement of the arm is a major contributor to tennis elbows. If you are someone who plays tennis, then this might mean that the power swing and the way you are using your forearm to hit a shot are incorrect. This causes unnecessary stress on your wrist and forearm and can affect your elbow joint and even the shoulder. This incorrect movement can cause pain, irritation, and inflammation. This repeated use of incorrect techniques can have future implications for serious pain in the future. You can also injure the extensor muscles as the tendons get affected. The function of this muscle group is to straighten the wrist. 

Tennis elbow can happen to anyone despite what the name suggests. So if you are someone in an occupation that requires you to use repeated motions of the elbow (construction, office administration, etc) then you might be at risk for developing a tennis elbow. Some of these daily tasks can cause a tennis elbow

  • You can get a tennis elbow if you are using scissors in a way that hurts your elbow. 
  • If you are trying to cut or chop tough food, for long hours. 
  • If you are spending hours on end gardening and not giving yourself periods of rest. 
  • If you are playing a sport, like a volleyball or throwball, that includes intense throwing and lifting
  • If you are involved in a construction project like laying brink, lifting heavy objects
  • Swimming using incorrect movements can also be a cause.

Also Read: Golfer’s Elbow – Symptoms and Causes and Treatment

How to Diagnose Your Tennis Elbow?

You should schedule a consultation with your doctor to examine the causes and reasons behind your tennis elbow. 

  • Your doctor will perform a physical examination of your arm to test for a range of motion and functionality. 
  • You can also do a test at home for minor cases of a tennis elbow. Just stand behind the chair and place your hands on top of the backrest of the chair, while keeping your elbows straight and palms facing downwards. Use a medium to a lightweight chair for this. If this causes pain near the elbow, then you likely have a tennis elbow.
  • In serious cases, an X-RAY and MRI scan will be ordered by your doctor if you have a pre-existing health condition like arthritis or fracture. However, this is quite rare as most cases are solved through physical examination of the arm. An MRI will be able to give more detailed information about the elbow pain if it does not respond to physiotherapy for elbow pain, medication, and exercises. 
  • An EMG is required in case of nerve damage and issues.

How to Treat Your Tennis Elbow?

Usually, cases of tennis elbows are quite mild, with home remedies and medication being enough for treatment. However, for consistent and prolonged cases there are other treatment options that deserve your attention. Do consider these treatment options after consultation with your doctor and physiotherapist. 

  • RICE Technique– This is an important component of the RICE treatment module. Rest is absolutely necessary for the injury to heal. This allows the tears in the tendon to heal and go back to their original form. Using ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, stretches, ultrasound therapy, and stretching exercises in conjunction with rest. Compression and Elevation are the last elements. Using protecting equipment that keeps the affected area compressed and raised is important for recovery. 
  • Physiotherapy For Elbow Pain– This is a must explore option- whether you are a tennis player or an office worker. Physiotherapy for elbow pain involves a collection of muscle strengthening, movement correction, and postural correction to focus on the root of the problem. It is a very effective non-invasive technique and also a drug-free approach to treatment. It helps with bringing back your original range of motion and flexibility and devises safe plans for people with arthritis and other existing degenerative conditions. 
  • For tennis elbow, it is good to try ice and heat therapy along with muscle stimulation exercises using electro therapy, TENS massaging, and ultrasound therapy for relaxation and pain relief. 
  • Steroid injections are one of the most popular treatment options if you have a severe and recurring tennis elbow injury. In certain cases, movement of the elbow becomes very painful, and this is when the doctor recommends a steroid injection. After a session of steroid injections, strict procedures are to be followed like proper rest, avoiding strain, and compressions. 
  • ESWT technique is commonly used in physiotherapy for elbow pain. This is used to help the process of healing by sending sound waves to the affected tendons of the elbow. Other forms of less intensive application therapies include heat therapy, laser therapy, and trigger point therapy. Another new form of treatment or therapy is PPT (platelet-rich plasma therapy). This is when the platelets from the blood of the patient are prepared that consist of healing proteins and are injected to speed up the recovery process. 
  • For extremely severe cases, surgery is recommended. This is when the tendon of the elbow is severely damaged and conservative approaches do not subside the symptoms even after a year or 6 months. This is truly the last resource as most patients recover after physiotherapy for elbow pain and home remedies.

Also Read: 10 Exercises for Tennis Elbow Rehab

Head on to Phyt Health, India’s first digital physiotherapy platform offering online physiotherapy services and consultations. With a wealth of knee exercises present on their website, you can include them in your daily life depending on your comfort level. All these exercises are curated by expert physiotherapists at Phyt Health. You can also book your online video consultation on the app, to discuss any issues you might be facing and begin your journey towards recovery!