Understanding Tennis Elbow
Feeling a little sore Monday morning at your computer after a weekend of leaf raking? Think you may have "tennis elbow" even though you have never played tennis? If you are tender to the touch on the outside of the elbow, have pain that limits your grip, pain that limits the ability to accept a load with the elbow extended, and/or pain that is aggravated by repetitive or forceful gripping, you may have a condition known as Lateral Epicondylitis. More commonly known as "Tennis Elbow", Lateral Epicondylitis primarily affects people between the ages of 35-55 and involves irritation of the muscles that control movement of the elbow and wrist.
What can you do if you are experiencing this kind of pain? Your first step should be a visit with your doctor to determine if you indeed have this condition. Your doctor may then refer you for a consultation with a therapist. “But what can therapy do for this kind of condition,” you may ask?
Therapy can offer the following services:
- Education to avoid further aggravation to the elbow by learning how to improve work ergonomics, posture, positioning during activities of daily living, and proper lifting techniques.
- Appropriate stretches to decrease pain and diminish the reoccurrence of injury.
- Splinting for pain management (as needed) to place the muscles at a relative rest.
- Pain management with the use of modalities such as heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, ice, and/or iontophoresis with Dexamethasone (as needed and approved by your physician).
- Once the pain is managed, your therapist may initiate endurance/strengthening to improve functional use of the arm.
- A therapist will educate to prevent/reduce further chance of re-injury.
So if you think, “Well...I have pain in my elbow but it’s not that bad," you may complicate the healing process by ignoring the issue. Never be afraid to communicate your concerns with your physician. It is easier to get control of the pain, and prevent exacerbation of the pain in the future, if you address the issue as promptly as possible.