15 Thu

Tennis elbow isn’t just for tennis players

Tennis elbow isn’t just for tennis players

Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI


Tennis elbow, known as lateral epicondylitis, can cause pain and soreness on the outside of the elbow.  However, it doesn’t just happen in tennis players.  It’s actually more common in golfers and golfer’s elbow is more common in tennis players.  Go figure.

I’ve seen tennis elbow in office workers as well.  It’s basically an inflammation of the tendons connected to the muscles that extend the wrist caused by overuse or overloading that area.  Extension of the wrist is when you lift the fingers and hand backwards.  Imagine having your forearm and elbow flat on a desk with your palm down, then keeping your elbow and wrist on the desk, raise your fingers and hand off the desk.  That’s wrist extension.  Now picture yourself sitting at a desk and using mouse and keyboard (likely what you’re doing right now).  It’s the same muscles being active.  Overuse can then lead to tennis elbow in office workers.

Same goes for golfers.  Imagine hitting a golf ball with a club off a hard mat at the driving range or hitting the ball out of some heavy rough on the golf course.  The repeated impact of the club with the hard mat or hitting through the tall grass can cause an overload to the wrist extensors.  If you’re a right handed golfer, you’ll probably get tennis elbow in the left elbow.  So you can see that it’s not just for tennis players anymore.

Repetitive overuse or overloading of the area can cause small microtears in the tendon, the structure that connects the muscle to the bone.  If these small tears are not allowed to heal properly, then scar tissue can develop.  This scar tissue is less elastic and doesn’t move as well as regular tendon tissue.  Furthermore, if you continue to use the arm and work through the pain, you can set up a cycle where the inflexibility of the tendon can cause more tears, increased pain, or even more damage to other connective tissue structures.

How can you treat it?   First, decrease the inflammation in the area.  First line of defense in this aspect is allowing the area to rest.  Don’t try and work or play through the pain.  Let it rest and apply some ice to the area to further decrease the inflammation.  Next step is to seek medical attention, get a correct diagnosis of the problem from a physiotherapist.  You can’t answer the question correctly, if you’re asking the wrong question.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.


Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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