Two of the most common conditions that we treat in our clinic that affect the elbow are Tennis and Golfers Elbow or Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis. This article is intended to give you an overview of these two conditions and a brief description of the following: symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Tennis and Golfers Elbow are painful conditions that occur at the elbow when the tendons in your forearm and elbow are overloaded. In Tennis Elbow the pain is on the outside of the elbow and with Golfers Elbow the pain is on the inside of the elbow. The overload of the tendons is usually caused by repetitive motions of the arms, wrist and hands.
Despite their names, athletes aren’t the only ones who develop these conditions at the elbow. Peoples whose jobs feature the types of motions that can lead to these conditions are plumbers, carpenters, painters, butchers, office workers and dental hygienist.
The pain of these conditions occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the inside or outside of your elbow. Sometimes the pain can spread into your forearm or wrist.
Tennis/Golfers Elbow is caused by damage to the tendon and muscles that control your hands, wrists and forearms. The damage usually comes over a prolonged period of overuse and manifests itself as a chronic inflammatory process where scar tissue may develop as a result of the microscopic damage to the muscles or tendons.
As previously mentioned the main predisposing factors to damaging the tissues concerned is repetitive use and overload through various sporting, work or daily living activities.
Tennis/Golfers Elbow is characterized by the following:
- Pain and tenderness on the outside or inside of your elbow. Sometimes extends down into the forearms and typically worsens with certain movements or activities.
- Weakness in your hands and wrists
- Numbness and tingling
The pain of Tennis/Golfers Elbow can come on suddenly or gradually over a period of time.
The pain may worsen when you:
- Swing a racket or golf club
- Squeeze something
- Shake hands
- Turn a door knob
- Lift weights
- Extend or flex your wrist
- Use a keyboard
To diagnose your Tennis/Golfers Elbow a health care professional should do a thorough examination. The examination should consist of moving, flexing, extending, twisting and rotating your forearm, wrist and fingers, along with touching the area to check for any tenderness.
Sometimes further imaging tests may be requested by your Doctor such as x-rays, ultrasounds or an MRI to determine a diagnosis and rule out any further problems
As with any soft tissue injury the best course of action is early intervention. As soon as the symptoms appear seek out a medical practitioner for a diagnosis and start rehabilitation right away. Treatment may be in the form of Physiotherapy, Chiropractic or massage therapy.
Tennis/Golf Elbow is one of the most chronic conditions treated by practitioners and can become a long standing and aggravating problem.
Treatment may include:
- Physiotherapy, the use of manual techniques, electrical stimulation, massage, ultrasound, taping and exercise
- Chiropractic care, manual adjustments, ART and modalities
- Massage Therapy
- Anti inflammatory drugs
- Elbow Straps, there are various straps on the market for both Tennis and Golfers Elbow
- Rest, sometimes it essential to rest and avoid those activities that are causing you pain.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above the best advice is to seek medical advice from a qualified regulated medical practitioner and get early intervention.
In my experience, being a Registered Physiotherapist of 28 years, Tennis and Golfers Elbow are two of the hardest conditions to get rid of if left untreated for an extended period of time. Simply taking anti inflammatory drugs does not equal treatment; the tissue itself must be treated!
Stephen Nero Registered Physiotherapist
Glen Abbey Physiotherapy