Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylalgia)

Tennis elbow, clinically known as lateral epicondylitis or lateral epicondylalgia, is a common musculoskeletal condition characterized by pain in the outer part of the elbow. Despite its name, tennis elbow is not exclusive to tennis players and can affect anyone engaging in repetitive arm and wrist movements. This condition primarily stems from an overuse situation of the forearm muscles, and this accustomed repetition or overuse can lead to microtears in one of more of the tendons attaching to the lateral epicondyle (note: the lateral epicondyle is the bony prominence on the outer side of the elbow). These microtears can cause either a partial (or full) tear in one of your forearm tendons, or these microtears create a tendon thickening response called tendinopathy.

Typically, individuals with tennis elbow experience pain and tenderness on the outer aspect of the elbow, which may radiate down the forearm. The pain is exacerbated by gripping and lifting objects, as well as activities that involve wrist extension. Common causes include repetitive motions, improper technique during activities like tennis or other racquet sports, and occupations involving repetitive arm movements.

The diagnosis of tennis elbow is often based on listening to your story + expert clinical testing, yet imaging studies such as X-rays or ultrasound scans are occasionally employed to rule out other conditions that can present around the elbow.

Treatment strategies for tennis elbow range from simple steps like rest and ice (which can be ok in very mild cases), but physiotherapy is often important to help address the tear damage with manual techniques, specific elbow tendon rehab exercise protocols and discussion around the use of braces or splints to alleviate strain on the affected tendons. In persistent cases, more invasive interventions like corticosteroid injections or, in rare instances, surgical procedures may be considered. We also need to review whether there’s any contributing factors from your neck, shoulder and/or wrist which may be limiting your recovery from tennis elbow pains.

Recovery times vary largely on the severity of the tendon integrity, but most individuals with tennis elbow respond well to conservative treatments within 4months in simple cases. Preventive measures include proper technique during physical activities, adequate warm-ups, and strength training to enhance forearm muscle endurance.

Are you suspicious you are suffering from tennis elbow? Do you need a diagnosis and plan, or are you someone who isn’t getting better with your current elbow pain plan and needs an expert opinion? Give the Optimal Health Lab team a call on 9431 5955, or book via our Client Portal on our website to schedule a time to discuss your elbow in depth!