‘True’ Tennis Elbow is an overuse injury, usually affecting the tendons that are attached to the outside of the elbow (the epicondyle). However, the term often gets applied to any sort of elbow pain- a bit like saying ‘cooking’ or ‘gardening’, it can cover a multitude of things!!
Tennis Elbow is very common, affecting up to 1 in 100 adults. It’s usually self limiting, though rarely settles if you keep doing the activity that strained the elbow in the first place.
There is usually inflammation or damage of the Common Extensor Tendon, as it crosses over the outside of the elbow, or where it attaches to the outer tip of the humerus, just above the elbow. Sometimes, the source is the joint at top of the Radius bone, and occasionally it involves the ligaments that stabilise the outside of the elbow joint. Occasionally, there some nerve irritation higher up the arm, or near the neck, which causes the elbow pain.
After detailed questioning and physical examination to identify the true source of pain, we usually treat with relative rest (avoiding the upsetting stresses), local massage, ultrasound electrotherapy, and specific graded strengthening exercises. Some patients also need a steroid injection to settle their inflammation down, but it’s important to loosen up the tissues involved AND restrengthen them as well. We may prescribe the use of a rigid Tennis Elbow Strap support- we stock these and trial them with our patients before recommending any purchases.