What is Tennis Elbow?

So the question is:  “How do you get tennis elbow and NOT play tennis?” I thought that tennis elbow was due to someone who played a lot of tennis! This is not the case.   Learn more about this painful and sometimes irritating problem.

Tennis elbow, medically named lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammatory condition affecting the outside of the elbow.

This elbow pain is due to tendonitis and periostitis (inflammation of the outer layer of the bone) where the tendon for the common wrist extensor muscles attaches to the humerus. This results in pain with any activity involving the contraction or moderate stretching of the wrist extensor muscles.

These activities would include writing, typing, lifting objects while the palm is turned down, or using a screwdriver. The pain usually has a gradual onset with no visible swelling. Stiffness or pain in the elbow is usually evident after prolonged periods of rest.

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Since tennis elbow affects the straightening of the wrist, you can test for it by lifting a weight, such as a book, with your palm facing down. Any pain in the outside of the elbow suggests you have tennis elbow.

This condition is ultimately due to overuse of the wrist extensor muscles. These muscles attach to the humerus just above the elbow joint on the outside of the elbow. The muscles then continue down the back of the forearm. The tendons then travel across the back of the wrist and hand and connect onto the fingers. These muscles contract to help extend the wrist moving it toward the back of the hand.

In time, because too much tension on the muscles can decrease the joint space in the elbow, the condition can progress to inflammation of the joint itself. This can then result not just in the typical tennis elbow pain, but also pain and stiffness in the joint itself.

Treatment usually involves taking anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication, along with some lifestyle modification. Also used are physiotherapy treatments such as TENS, laser therapy, ultrasound, and interferential current.

Chiropractic treatments are also helpful. These include soft-tissue techniques such as Graston, active release, or cross-fiber friction massage. Chiropractic adjustment of the elbow joint, can also bring relief.

With adjusting, the two joint surfaces are spread apart an estimated one to three millimeters momentarily. This leads to an increase in volume and decrease in pressure in the joint. This will assist in the decrease in pain from the pressure built up in the joint from the condition of lateral epicondylitis. Adjusting of the wrist may be of some benefit as well.

The theory is that since the muscles involved with this condition help to move the wrist, it should aid in the speed of recovery if the wrist motion is maintained. If the wrist tightens, the muscles need to work harder to move the wrist. This results in tightness in the wrist extensors which then exacerbates the condition.

The use of a tennis elbow band may also prove effective in decreasing symptoms. This works by forming an artificial origin for the muscle before it crosses the elbow. This allows a decrease in tension of the wrist extensor muscles as they cross the elbow which eases tension on the lateral epicondyle and decreases pressure on the elbow.

Also, though rest would be ideal, there may be times when lifting is needed to be done. In this case, one should only attempt to lift with the palm of the hand turned upward. This uses the wrist flexors more than the wrist extensors.

Two things that have been found to help is to limit salt intake to help reduce water resorption in the body and to supplement with Vitamin B6.

It is best to check with your medical doctor or chiropractic professional if you feel that you have this condition for with proper assessment, a treatment plan can be initiated will help with accelerated recovery.

As you can see there is more to tennis elbow than just playing tennis. If you are having a problem with tennis elbow, try a rubber tennis elbow band. These seem to work very good for some people.

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