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Tennis Elbow - Symptoms and Causes

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Tennis Elbow - Symptoms and Causes

WHAT IS TENNIS ELBOW?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition that affects the extensor tendon of your elbow and is often caused by overuse. Essentially it is tendinitis that affects the tendon and muscles involved with gripping and use of the hand and forearm—hence, it’s commonly referred to as “tennis elbow.”
Anybody can end up with tennis elbow, but women are more prone than men, and people between the ages of 35 and 50 have the highest incidence. Active individuals who participate in at least 30 minutes of high levels of activity involving the upper extremity three times a week are most at risk.

CAUSES
Tennis elbow has very little to do with tennis; in fact, the vast majority of lateral epicondylitis sufferers can’t blame the sport. Frequent, intense or repetitive use of the arms in tasks that involve grasping can cause a breakdown of the tendon fibers. This is normal; but when the rate of breakdown is faster than your body can rebuild the damaged tissue, tendinitis can occur.

SYMPTOMS
Signs that you may have developed lateral epicondylitis include tenderness to the touch and increased elbow pain with activity that does not completely resolve with rest.

TREATMENT
The first line of defense should be stopping or modifying the painful activity in order to allow your body the chance to heal, combined with ice to help reduce inflammation. If the condition does not resolve, you should see your physician or Direct Access-licensed physical therapist, because while lateral epicondylitis is a common cause, other serious conditions can also cause elbow and forearm pain. A physician may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or, in more acute cases, offer a cortisone injection.

HOW A PHYSICAL THERAPIST CAN HELP
A physical therapist will assess your condition for severity and may use any combination of the following:
• Manual techniques to restore elbow joint mobility
• Transverse friction massage to promote tissue healing and remodeling
• Modalities either to prepare the soft tissue for hands-on techniques or to reduce pain and inflammation
• Specific stretching and strengthening exercises designed to further promote healing of the tissue without increasing symptoms
• Nerve-gliding exercises are often used to avoid or alleviate painful radial nerve irritation or entrapment at the forearm.
A PT may also educate you on activity modification in order to avoid further injury. Most people will achieve maximum healing and benefit with 6-24 visits, depending on the severity of the condition. There is a growing body of evidence supporting modern physical therapy intervention as an effective means to reduce pain and improve grip function.

As always, reach out to your local CPRS PT if you have additional questions or are experiencing pain. 

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