Tennis elbow (or lateral epicondylitis) is a common, painful condition affecting the outside of the elbow. The term tennis elbow is misleading because, although the condition can affect tennis players, most people who suffer from tennis elbow don’t play tennis!
Tennis elbow is characterised by pain over the tendon which connects the muscles of the forearm onto the lateral epicondyle (the bony bit on the outside of the elbow). For many years, this was thought to be caused by inflammation in and around the tendon, but recent advances in research now propose that the pain is caused by degeneration in the tissues rather than an inflammatory cause. The condition is commonly caused by an increase in activities involving the wrist and forearm, although sometimes symptoms will begin with no clear cause.
Physiotherapy can help with tennis elbow. Initially rest from the aggravating activity and the use of ice and anti-inflammatory medication may be helpful. A specifically designed exercise program incorporating eccentric exercises will help the body to gradually repair and remodel the tendon. This programme needs to be progressed over time, and as such, it can take some time for symptoms to fully resolve. Your physiotherapist may also suggest, stretching, taping, supports or acupuncture to assist with treatment. It can sometimes be useful to treat other areas of your body that we know are connected, such as your neck.