Tennis elbow is a condition that can affect anyone.
It’s something that physical therapy for sports injuries can help with, but it’s not necessarily a sports injury.
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?
Tennis elbow can be a painful condition caused by overusing the extensor muscles in your forearm.
This condition is focused around the area that your tendons attach to the rounded projections of your elbow bones.
Any muscle movement that involves gripping, twisting, and carrying objects with your hands all involve these muscles, which attach to the elbow.
This is why even a simple wrist movement can cause pain in your elbow when you have tennis elbow.
Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow
The symptoms of tennis elbow can occur immediately as a result of excessive use of your wrist and hand for activities requiring force.
This is acute onset of tennis elbow.
Some examples of such activities include lifting, twisting, or pulling substantial weight.
These activities can injure the extensor muscle fibers, and lead to a sudden onset of tennis elbow.
Other symptoms of tennis elbow can gradually develop over a period of weeks or months due to the repetitive use of your wrist, hand, and elbow.
Some gradual symptoms include:
- Difficulty performing common tasks like 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?
Prolonged and repetitive use of the wrist and hand can cause tennis elbow.
Some examples include operating machinery, using a computer, and of course, playing tennis with poor technique.
As you can see, this is an issue related to ergonomics as much as it is athletics.
Tennis elbow can happen to anyone, but most often affects people between the ages of 30 and 50.
In some cases, though, older folks may need physical therapy for seniors related to tennis elbow.
How Is Tennis Elbow Diagnosed?
Tennis elbow can be diagnosed by your physical therapist by testing in clinic.
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 like muscle weakness that may have exacerbated the problem.
Physical Therapy Treatments For Tennis Elbow
Physical therapy treatment can be very effective for tennis elbow.
But, as with any physical injury, there are particular actions you should take at particular times post injury.
This is because it is important to address an acute case of tennis elbow as early as possible, while also correcting the muscle weakness and bad habits that may have led to it.
If your treatment is only focused on pain relief, it may become chronic for months or years at a time.
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 should include:
- Using 10 – 20 minute ice treatments
- Using elastic bandages to support and take pressure off your painful muscles
- Resting your arm
If you require a brace, your physical therapist will recommend one depending on your assessment.
Sometimes further treatment, depending on the severity of your pain, can be required like a cortisone injection or surgery.
Your physical therapist will refer you to another health care provider if they believe this to be warranted.
After the initial examination, within this 48 hour window your physical therapist will then design a treatment plan to help speed your recovery.
Your therapist will use different types of treatments to help relieve pain, which can include manual therapy, special exercises, ice treatments, and heat treatments.
You will also be given exercises to do at home to support your recovery.
2. Strength Building
Not having enough muscle strength can lead to tennis elbow.
It’s possible to find that your area of weakness is in your wrist and forearm muscles.
It can also stem from a weakness of your core muscles.
Your physical therapist may advise you to improve your overall fitness levels in order to help your tennis elbow.
They can also determine the type and amount of exercises that will benefit your body the most.
This will happen later on during your treatment because with acute tennis elbow, your physical therapist will most likely start you with passive exercises that don’t use the strength of your muscles.
Then, once the acute tennis elbow has faded, you will graduate to focusing on the muscles of your wrist and arm.
Finally, you will be able to incorporate weights with your physical therapist’s approval as your muscles grow and strengthen.
3. Range Of Motion Building
Your physical therapist may use manual therapy to train your joints and muscles to more smoothly and with less pain.
This takes time and will be worked into your recovery plan.
4. Retraining Your Muscles
Like we said earlier, an important part of your treatment is to retrain your muscles so that you break any muscular bad habits.
Your physical therapist can help with this.
For example, when lifting a heavy bag of groceries, you should contract the muscles around your shoulder blade and trunk to support your arm muscles.
This simple action can help prevent strain in your arm, which will help to prevent tennis elbow.
If you’ve had tennis elbow, then this motion can also work to protect your arm and help you return to your daily activities while reducing your risk of re-injury.
5. Return To Your Activity Safely
Once healed, your physical therapist will help you to remain active and safe by teaching you to modify your daily activities to avoid future injury.
You may need to modify your work, athletics, or home in order to support your body.
Your physical therapist will show you how to make modifications.
For example, they can tweak your work setup with your computer or your kitchen devices in order to reduce the chance for re-injury.
The goal is to lessen the repetitive strain on your hands, wrists, and forearms.
You may also be taught to take stretching breaks so that your muscles get frequent rest from repetitive movements.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
You can see there’s quite a lot to consider when treating tennis elbow.
Your physical therapist will be especially helpful, not just for pain relief but to help you reduce your risk of re-injury.
You don’t want your tennis elbow to become a chronic condition.
If you’re dealing with tennis elbow, book an appointment today with Capitol Physical Therapy.
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