Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) is inflammation of the tendon and bony attachment of the forearm extensor muscles. The muscles that straighten our fingers and pull our wrist backwards all join into one common tendon which attaches to a bony bump (lateral epicondyle) on the outside of our elbow.
When we form a grip or just simply bend our fingers, these extensor muscles work constantly to stabilise our wrist. Over many hours of writing, typing, using a mouse, gripping a hammer or power tool, these muscles become tighter and more fatigued.
Eventually, if we don’t stretch these muscles, they put so much tension on the tendon and its bony attachment that they become inflamed.
Whilst ice and anti-inflammatory medication can relieve the pain, the underlying cause of tight and tired forearm muscles will most likely maintain the condition.
What’s tennis got to do with it? As mentioned before when we make a grip the forearm extensor muscles work hard to stabilise the wrist (keep it stiff), hence the stronger the grip, the harder these muscles work. Many years ago, tennis racquets were quite heavy and poorly weighted which meant greater wrist strength was required to control the racquet. No doubt this created a common injury in people playing tennis.
Today, we all use a computer, tablet, or mobile phone constantly, which is the major cause of Tennis Elbow due to the repetitive use of the fingers. A common cause of Tennis Elbow is the combination of using a computer all day and then lifting weights in a gym at night-time – requiring an excessive use of these forearm extensor muscles.
As it is an inflammatory condition, rest and medication will often help; but to control the condition long term, it is essential to have your wrist/elbow mobility and forearm muscular flexibility assessed and treated. More recently, we have seen much faster pain reduction from using Shockwave Therapy in conjunction with Osteopathy and without the need for anti-inflammatory medication.
Finally, addressing the aggravating factors is imperative to manage this:
Regular breaks from the keyboard, mouse, power tool, hammer etc.
Stabilising the wrists with straps or taping when using excessive grip strength.
Regular stretching of the forearm muscles.