Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough– When repetition causes pain.
You don’t have to be a tennis player to get “tennis elbow”, so why is the condition connected to the sport? The real term is actually, “lateral epicondylitis”, which is very painful sensation in the tendons of the elbows. Even though the pain might be in the elbow area, the condition can be caused by repetitive movements of the arms and wrist. The arm is a kinetic chain so anything we
do in the wrist rides up to the elbow which can ride up to the shoulder which can ride up to the neck and so on. It isn’t just tennis players who can have this because many jobs and many movement patterns can require the overuse and repetitive functions to be able to perform them.
Even typing with the wrist movement can lead to tennis elbow. In today’s world that is not
uncommon. The pain is usually right where the tendons of the forearm meet the outside of the
Tennis elbow does happen to athletes, but it is also common among plumbers, carpenters,
butchers, chefs who chop a lot, or even secretaries, and painters. The repeated contraction of the
forearm muscles over and over cause the overuse to lead to pain. The forearm raises the arm
multiple times per day for many things we do, but when done repetitively and overtime, just like
anything, there can be a consequence. Even simple tasks like turning a doorknob, holding a cup
of coffee, and/or gripping objects can radiate pain.
In our youth, we may not run across tennis elbow, but as we age the risk increases. Tennis elbow
is most common between the ages of 30 to 50. Obviously what sports you participate in or what
your job is are also risk factors. A doctor can screen and diagnose for tennis elbow, but typically
the symptoms are pretty clear.
Treatment could be done a few ways. Physical therapy can take place to strengthen and stretch
the muscles surrounding the elbow. You can also wear a brace or sleeve to reduce stress to the
area. Resting or taking a break from the repetitive movement pattern is suggested, although for
some people their career requires the action regardless. Stretching the forearm and bending and
extending the elbow to elongate it can help. This can be done several times throughout the day.
Icing on and off for 20 minutes can help with inflammation and pain. Only about 5% of people
with tennis elbow need surgery. Committing to less severe treatments for a few a few months
before surgery would be recommended. Arthroscopic surgery would be less invasive.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and healthy diet are always good to make sure your body is
optimally functioning without other underlying conditions.