Tennis Elbow

By Melissa Gillespie,
Pain in the outside of the elbow, commonly referred to as ‘Tennis Elbow’, can be hugely debilitating and limiting to everyday life.

It can make it very challenging to complete normal, daily activities that we all take for granted such as picking up a cup, washing your hair, shaking hands or gripping objects, due to the pain and weakness in the elbow.

So why does ‘Tennis Elbow’ result in difficulty with these type of movements? All those tasks require the muscles in the back of your forearm (wrist extensors) to contract and many clients that I’ve seen in the clinic have work or hobbies that involve repetitive use of these forearm muscles.

As with any muscle, repetitive use can cause the muscle to become tight and shortened. The wrist extensor muscles all come together to attach to a tendon that inserts into the bone in the outside of your elbow.

If the muscles become tight, they can pull on the tendon, causing it to become inflamed and irritated. As a result, people often get pain that starts in the outside of the elbow. With time, the pain can spread down into the back of the forearm and cause an ache in the muscles.

If addressed early, the injury does not have to be largely limiting to everyday tasks. Regular forearm stretching before, during and after your activities can lengthen the extensor muscles and reduce the tension going through the tendon.

However, if left too late, this stretching can be painful and would not be advised until you have been assessed by a Physiotherapist. Breaking up jobs or switching between certain activities at work to reduce the load on the forearm muscles, can also help towards preventing this pain from occurring or limiting the extent of the injury.

Often we try to push through the feeling of forearm tightness or early stages of pain as we have the mentality that “it’s just a niggle” or “it will come right with time”. Many clients have said to me they wished they had listened to their body at this stage and did something about it earlier.

If you feel that you are experiencing similar symptoms or have any questions about this type of pain, come in and see us – we would be happy to help!

Seeking advice or treatment before the symptoms worsen can allow for a much quicker recovery, less time off work, and more time outside during the weekends, doing those activities you love!

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