Tennis elbow is a condition that’s commonly associated with sports injuries.
It’s an easy association to make; there’s a sport in the condition’s name, after all.
It’s also something that physical therapy for sports injuries can help with.
However, it’s not necessarily a sports injury.
Tennis elbow can affect anyone at any time.
Even something as typical as carrying your groceries home without using the muscles in your body properly can trigger it.
Let’s take a closer look at this disorder, and how our Washington DC physical therapy clinic can help.
What Is Tennis Elbow?
Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly referred to as tennis elbow, is an often painful condition caused by overuse of the extensor muscles in your forearm.
This condition primarily targets the area where your tendons attach to the rounded projections of your elbow bones.
This part of your elbow is important for a wide range of muscle movements, including:
- Carrying objects with your hands
This is why even a simple wrist movement can cause pain in your elbow when you have tennis elbow.
Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow
In some cases, the symptoms of tennis elbow appear immediately following excessive use of your wrist and hand for activities requiring force.
These cases are referred to as “acute onset of tennis elbow”.
Some examples of such activities include lifting, twisting, or pulling substantial weight.
These activities increase your risk of injury to your extensor muscle fibers, and subsequently can lead to a sudden onset of tennis elbow.
In other cases, symptoms of tennis elbow gradually develop over a period of weeks or months due to the repetitive use of your wrist, hand, and elbow.
Examples of gradual symptoms include:
- Difficulty performing common tasks, such as turning a doorknob or holding a coffee cup
- Increased pain with hand and wrist use for lifting objects, opening a jar, or gripping tightly
- Pain radiating into your forearm and wrist
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Weakness in the forearm, wrist, or hand
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, tennis elbow is primarily caused by prolonged and repetitive use of your hand and wrist.
Some examples include operating machinery, using a computer, and of course, playing tennis with poor technique.
As you can see, tennis elbow is an issue related to ergonomics as much as it is athletics.
The condition is also occasionally caused by physical trauma to the elbow.
Tennis elbow can happen to anyone, but most commonly affects certain age groups.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, people between the ages of 30 and 60 are most at risk.
Additionally, many seniors benefit from physical therapy for seniors related to tennis elbow.
How Is Tennis Elbow Diagnosed?
Physical therapists are skilled at both diagnosing and providing solutions for tennis elbow.
Your physical therapist will perform a careful examination of your body in order to isolate the source of your pain.
For example, they may ask you to gently tense or stretch sore muscles in order to identify the location of the problem.
Then, your therapist will try to figure out if there is an underlying condition, such as muscle weakness, exacerbating the problem.
Physical Therapy Treatments For Tennis Elbow
Physical therapy treatment is a very effective solution for tennis elbow.
At Capitol Physical Therapy, our therapists have a wide range of tools at their disposal designed to help not only reduce the acute symptoms of tennis elbow, but help resolve the underlying issue as well.
Therefore, we’ll work with you to address the immediate symptoms of tennis elbow as early as possible, while also correcting the muscle weakness and bad habits that have contributed to it.
Now, let’s find out more about what this treatment process looks like.
1. In The First 48 Hours
During the first 48 hours after acute onset of your pain, your treatment will include:
- Applying ice to the affected area for 10 to 20 minute intervals
- Using elastic bandages to support and take pressure off your painful muscles
- Resting your arm
Your physical therapist might recommend the use of an elbow brace during this period.
If you’re experiencing intense pain, your physical therapist might also recommend a cortisone injection to help with pain management.
Your physical therapist will also refer you to any other health care providers if they believe this to be warranted.
Once your pain has been managed, you and your therapist can get to work designing a treatment plan to help speed your recovery.
Your therapist will use different techniques to help relieve pain and target underlying issues.
Such techniques often include:
Your therapist will also give you exercises to do at home in order to support your continued recovery outside of their office.
2. Strength Building
People without enough muscle strength have an increased risk of developing tennis elbow.
This includes weakness in your wrist, forearm, or even your core muscles.
Your physical therapist will explore ways to improve your overall fitness levels and subsequently help your tennis elbow.
They can also determine the type and amount of exercises that will benefit your body the most.
You’ll start with passive exercises before gradually building to strength building movements.
Once the acute tennis elbow has faded, you will graduate to focusing on the muscles of your wrist and arm.
Finally, your physical therapist will incorporate weights as your muscles grow and strengthen.
3. Range Of Motion Building
Another therapeutic tool that your physical therapist might utilize is range of motion building.
Range of motion exercises are helpful in helping to train your joints and muscles to move more smoothly and with less pain.
Your therapist will make sure to gradually work these excises into your recovery plan.
4. Retraining Your Muscles
Like we said earlier, an important part of your treatment is to retrain your muscles and to break any muscular bad habits.
Your physical therapist can help with this.
For example, you can try contracting the muscles around your shoulder blade and trunk while carrying something heavy, such as a bag of groceries.
This strategy helps to support your arm muscles and prevent strain in your arm, which will help to prevent tennis elbow.
If you’ve had tennis elbow in the past, then this strategy can also work to protect your arm and help you return to your daily activities while reducing your risk of reinjury.
5. Return To Your Activities Safely
Once healed, your physical therapist will help you to remain active and safe by teaching you how to modify your daily activities to avoid reinjury.
You’ll need to modify your work, athletics, and home activities in order to support your healing body.
For example, you can rearrange your work station set up to reflect ergonomic principles and reduce your chance of experiencing reinjury.
The goal is to lessen the repetitive strain on your hands, wrists, and forearms.
Stretching breaks are also an important consideration to explore to ensure that your muscles get frequent rest from repetitive movements.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
As you can see, there’s quite a lot to consider when it comes to tennis elbow.
Your physical therapist will be especially helpful, not just for pain relief but also to help you reduce your risk of reinjury.
Sticking to your treatment is especially important to prevent your tennis elbow from becoming a chronic condition.
If you’re dealing with tennis elbow, book an appointment today with Capitol Physical Therapy.
We can help.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today and find solutions for your tennis elbow today.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC