Tennis elbow

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Pain experienced in the elbow and radiating to the forearm and wrist

Also called

Lateral epicondylitis

Affected areas

Starting gradually, the pain experienced by sufferers of tennis elbow starts at the elbow and radiates to the forearm and wrist.

Symptoms

  • The onset of tennis elbow tends to be gradual rather than sudden
  • Pain on the outside of the elbow
  • Pain may radiate to the forearm and wrist
  • Opening the fingers triggers or exacerbates the pain
  • Repeatedly rotating the forearm or extending the wrist so that the hand moves backwards towards the forearm may also trigger or aggravate the pain
  • Without treatment, the symptoms may take 6-24 months to resolve

Causes

The tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the outer elbow (known as lateral epicondyle) are vulnerable to injury due to their poor blood supply.

Tennis elbow occurs when these tendons are damaged by over-use, especially from repetitive activities (such as hitting a tennis ball).

Aside from tennis, there are a range of activities that can cause  lateral epicondylitis:
  • Long term or incorrect use of a computer mouse.
  • Gardening activities such as using shears.
  • Painting
  • Typing
  • Manual work such as carpentry
  • Other racquet sports

Natural therapies

There are natural therapies that have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and bone and muscle supporting properties that may be beneficial for those suffering from Tennis elbow:
  • Devil’s claw's analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties may provide temporary relief of musculoskeletal complaints such as lateral epicondylitis
  • Magnesium may assist with relief from muscle cramps and spasms because of its involvement with bone strength and healthy muscle contraction 
  • The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA, may help in providing relief

Diet and lifestyle

There are a variety of measures you can take that may help treat and also reduce the risk of developing tennis elbow.

Treatment involves several key factors:
  • Applying an ice pack for 15 minutes every couple of hours may help soothe elbow pain
  • Massage  and stretches may help to relieve muscle tension
  • Refraining from using the affected arm is of the utmost importance, especially any activity that may be responsible for the pain to begin with
  • An elbow brace or taping may be necessary to help protect the damaged area- check with your physiotherapist
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of  tennis elbow:
  • Remember to stretch and warm up before playing sport or taking part in any activity that may involve repetitive use of the forearm or elbow
  • Ask your healthcare professional about the correct method for lifting objects
  • Once you're finished any sporting activity, take the time cool off and stretch
  • If playing a sport that may cause the condition, pay attention to your technique. Using lighter racquets and larger grip sizes may be beneficial too
  • Your work environment and activities should be set up to minimise repetitive actions and pressure on the wrist, forearm and elbow. Your work area and seating should be in the best position to avoid strain on your muscles and joints
  • Use light weights to help strengthen your hand and forearm muscles
  • Take regular rest and stretch breaks

 

Important notes

If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.