No you do not have to be a professional tennis player to develop tennis elbow!
In fact only about one in twenty patients with this injury have developed it from playing a racquet sport.
What is it?
Tennis elbow is an injury to the tendon within the forearm. The tendon is what connects muscle to bone. Traditionally, the pain associated with overuse of a tendon was referred to as tendonitis which implies associated inflammation however the research has shown that there is little or no inflammation actually present with this type of injury. The new and more appropriate term to a tendon injury is Tendinopathy.
Who gets it?
The injury that occurs is due to an imbalance between the normal break down of the tendon and the repair following over-use. Therefore the injury occurs to people who perform heavy work with their hands that is often repetitive such as; painting, sewing, typing, brick laying etc. This condition can occur in in people who have done these activities over a long time, but also tend to present in people who are not accustomed the activity but has recently started.
If you are one of the few racquet sport players that develop this pain, sometimes changing your racquet size, grip size, string tension or the sheer volume of exercise can trigger this type of pain.
What are the symptoms?
The most common complaint is the pain in the outside of the elbow, it is often sharper with gripping objects or moving the wrist. The pain often ‘warms up’ or improves with continual activity depending on the severity of the injury. The pain will likely subside with rest however it tends to pop again whenever this activity begins again.
What does treatment involve?
It is important to see a Physiotherapist to complete a thorough assessment and have a diagnosis as this is not the only cause for pain around the elbow.
Once tennis elbow is diagnosed your physiotherapist will explain that any aggravating position or movement should be avoided. However this does not mean that complete rest will solve the problem. In fact, more recent research has shown that it is beneficial to carefully load the affected tendon with specific exercises, to both desensitise the symptoms and improve the capacity and strength of the tendon. Other remedies such as taping/bracing, shockwave and various manual therapy techniques to both the elbow and even up to the neck have also been proven to improve the symptoms.