With Wimbledon upon us, and the outdoor tennis season in full swing, we thought now would be a good time to talk about Tennis Elbow. Probably the most common injury associated with not just tennis but racket sports in general.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, otherwise known as Lateral Epicondylitis, is an inflammation of the area in which your wrist and finger extensor muscles attach at the elbow. All of these muscles start in one area, just above your elbow joint and on the outside of your arm known as the lateral epicondyle. The muscles then travel the length of your forearm before attaching to the back or your hand, wrist and fingers. As you can see, there is a huge number of muscles in this area!
Attachment points of the forearm extensors
Now, because of the rather small nature of these muscle they have a relatively small attachment area to the bone making the area more susceptible to damage. This damage is caused when the muscles are forcefully elongated whilst they are contracting, this is especially the case if it happens very suddenly.
What I just described is exactly what occurs when you hit a backhand in tennis. You are contracting these extensor muscles to keep your wrist in position whilst hitting the ball, the force of the ball pushes the racket backwards as it makes contact with the strings, which makes your wrist flex slightly. When it flexes, the extensor muscles are stretched, essentially tugging at their attachment to the bone at your elbow.
Doing this just once will be very unlikely to cause tennis elbow, but it's the repetition of this process that eventually leads to damage and inflammation.
It is named Tennis Elbow because this is the sport it is most associate with. However sport is not the only cause, with certain occupations also increasing the risk of lateral epicondylitis. For example, painters and decorators.
The risk of lateral epicondylitis is increased by;
How is Tennis Elbow treated?
Well, in our upcoming mini-series on Instagram and Facebook , we will cover this in more depth with pictures and videos. But the basic principles are this:
This can be achieved by resting and applying ice to the area.
This can be done once again with rest, but also with the use of a tennis elbow support or strap. This essentially redistributes the stress elsewhere by reducing the strain onto the attachment of the wrist extensors into the lateral epicondyle. This can also be achieved by reducing the tension in the muscles, which is achieved by massage, taping and dry needling.
Example of the taping we would use for Tennis Elbow at Alpha Health
Finally it should be noted that tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition, meaning it will most likely get better on its own, however the average case of Tennis Elbow lasts around 6 months, but has been known to last up to 2 years. This can be reduced with treatment and the right care. Both of which you will find here at Alpha Health!
Please do not use this blog as a replacement for seeking the correct help from a qualified health professional.