You Don't Have To Play Tennis To Get Tennis Elbow
You've probably heard of tennis elbow. Maybe you know someone with it and thought, 'but they don't play tennis?' But what is it, and how do you get it if not by playing tennis?
What Is It?
Tennis elbow, which your physio might call 'lateral epicondylalgia', is pain on the outside of the elbow that is typically aggravated by gripping tasks such as shaking hands, lifting a jug of water, clicking a mouse on a computer etc. It is caused by overload in the tendon which attaches your wrist and finger extensors to your arm. This tendon attaches at the knobbly bit of bone on the outside of your elbow (the lateral epicondyle), which tends to be the most prominent site of pain and tenderness.
It's a very common injury, check out these figures:
40% of people will suffer tennis elbow at some point in their lives
1-3% of people are suffering it at any one time
Around 40% of tennis players will experience tennis elbow
How Do You Get It?
Placing excess load through your wrist and finger extensors can lead to pain and degradation of their tendon. Repetitive or prolonged upper limb activities place you at risk of developing tennis elbow. These activities include clicking a mouse on a computer, processing meat or fish and using hand tools, as well as playing tennis.
How Long Does It Last?
We used to believe that tennis elbow would resolve itself in 6-24 months. Unfortunately this idea was based on a paper published in 1936, and has since been disproved. Tennis elbow can resolve within a few months, but over 50% of people are still affected after 12 months, and 20% of people are affected for more than three years.
How Do I Get Rid of It?
While tennis elbow can be difficult to get rid of, a multifaceted treatment approach is most useful. Strengthening and stretching exercises, and changes to your work setup will be things you can do to help the condition improve. Physio treatments including massage, joint mobilisations, taping and bracing can be of benefit as well. Sometimes the elbow pain may be related to your neck, upper back or shoulder and so treatments of these areas may be beneficial as well.
Where conservative treatment isn't successful, corticosteroid or blood injections may help to relieve the condition. Occassionally surgery is required, though most tennis elbow cases resolve without the need for surgery.