Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Tennis Elbow: Thinking beyond Pain Relief


 Pain in the elbow is experienced by at least 3% of the population every year. However most of us have suffered from various degrees of this type of pain at some point in our life. 

The most common cause of pain in the elbow is commonly known as Tennis Elbow.’ Tennis Elbow is inflammation due to an overuse injury of the muscles that arise from outer side of the elbow and run across the forearm and wrist. The reason why it is called tennis elbow is that it is commonly seen racquet sports players who practice repetitive movements in the backhand position with a flawed technique. However, this doesn’t mean that only tennis players will get tennis elbow. It can be experienced by anybody, even while doing small bouts of simple activity such as-

  • wringing clothes
  • lifting a heavy bag or object
  • Riding a bike
  • Cooking
  • Writing

With all the information available at the click of a button, many of us google our symptoms and treat them at home with simple remedies like icing. Most of the minor symptoms may subside temporarily but what about treating the cause? Not treating the cause can bolster into functional restriction in the long run.

What are my treatment options??

While there are multiple treatment options for this condition, most of which involve painkillers or steroid injections, physiotherapy is the safest option with statistically promising long term results.

PAIN can be treated by methods like icing, splinting, ultrasound therapy and even LASER therapy. Recent studies have shown that ‘Low Level LASER Therapy’ helps in promoting repair along with reduction of pain and inflammation. There is also evidence that certain physiotherapy techniques like joint mobilisations work best. However, the treatment does not end as soon as the pain resolves. 

Pain killers are consumed every now and then whenever pain arises.

What could be a golden solution to get long term pain relief?

As the elbow works in correlation with the wrist, hand and the shoulder, any imbalance at this junction can restrict the entire chain’s function. Hence correcting such imbalances under the supervision of an expert Physiotherapist is one of the important aspects of treating tennis elbow. 

Holistic treatment involves strength training, either alone or in combination with certain electrotherapeutic modalities. K-taping when put together with appropriate exercise therapy can improve wrist as well as grip strength safely. With a suitable dosage of intensity, repetitions and frequency of exercise, endurance of the limb can be built to sustain larger bouts of activity.

Further on, to prevent reoccurrences in the future, the muscles need to be trained to tolerate specific movements and positions while carrying out the functions. For athletes with high demand activities, the right amount of supervised plyometric training adds to the overall confidence of the player on the field.

Thus, identifying the cause is important, in order to not just manage the symptoms of tennis elbow, but also to maintain the function of the muscles, as you CAN completely recover from this condition.

Dr. Neha Apte (PT)


Rehab Station, Pune

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