Two common elbow complaints are lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (golfers elbow). They typically result from overuse of the tendons and muscles attaching to the elbow. Although common in tennis players and golfers, they commonly occur from activities unrelated to either sport.
Lateral epicondylitis is classified as pain on the outside of the elbow joint, and caused by overuse of the forearm muscles involved in gripping, extending the wrist and extending the elbow (similar to the backhand motion in tennis). Medial epicondylitis presents as pain on the inside of the elbow, and is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles involved in gripping, flexing the wrist and flexing the elbow (similar to a golf swing).
With repetitive stress, the tendon which attaches the muscles to the bone becomes damaged and can develop micro-tears, resulting in pain and weakness.
Causes can include overuse or poor technique in sports such as tennis, golf, and other activities including gardening, painting, computer and mouse use, lifting and carrying.
Symptoms can include:
Physiotherapy treatment may include ice and anti-inflammatory measures to decrease pain and swelling, soft tissue release techniques to the forearm muscles, strengthening exercises (particularly eccentric exercises) to stimulate healing and promote recovery.
Other physiotherapy techniques such as mobilisations, taping, dry needling, stretching, and nerve stretches may also be required.
An elbow strap for tennis/golfers elbow can be very helpful to offload the tendon attachment and allow healing to occur. Where possible you should rest from any aggravating activities until the pain settles.
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