Tennis elbow, also known as Lateral Epicondylitis, is a common overuse injury that occurs at the lateral (outside) aspect of the elbow. This injury affects the tendon, which attaches muscle to bone, and therefore is categorized as tendinopathy.

In the case of the tennis elbow, the tendon which attaches the forearm muscles to the lateral (outside) part of the elbow is affected. These muscles are responsible for extending your wrist away from your palm.

To gain a better understanding of the motion, you can picture the movement of the wrist during a backhand swing in tennis.

Anatomical structures of a tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis

Tennis Elbow Overview

Although tennis can lead to developing this injury, it is not the only cause and many people who do not play tennis can develop this too. It can also occur with repetitive activities which use the same muscles such as construction, gripping, computer use, shoveling, gardening, forearm curls and even turning a screwdriver.

Some other sports such as squash, badminton, weightlifting, baseball, and rowing may also lead to developing this injury as well. During repetitive activities, such as the ones mentioned previously, the muscles and tendons are repetitively loaded and stressed.

The loading causes micro-tears and trauma in the tissue, which is normal, and the body will then respond by adapting to get stronger in order to better tolerate these types of activities in the future. In the case of tennis elbow, the loading is occurring at a pace that is too quick for the tendons and muscles to recover and the micro-tears will then turn into overuse injuries.

With this injury the symptoms may occur gradually over a period of time. Typically, it starts with a dull aching pain at the outside of the elbow which usually resolves by the next day. As the injury progresses it may take more time for the pain to stop.

The discomfort and pain may move into the back of the forearm or wrist. Often as the injury progresses you may experience pain and discomfort with pressure on the outside of the elbow, bending the elbow or wrist, lifting objects, turning a door handle, jar lid or key, and even shaking hands.

If the onset of this elbow injury is new, then it can be classified as acute, which means the region may have inflammation and be actively trying to heal. In the case of persistent pain which has lasted for more than 6 weeks, the tennis elbow may be classified as chronic and may need encouragement to partake in healing.

In both classifications of tennis elbow, physiotherapy is an excellent option to help you manage your injury.

Woman experiencing a tennis elbow injury

Tennis Elbow Appointment in Cypress Physiotherapy in North Vancouver

During the appointment, we will provide an assessment that is individually tailored to your elbow injury. This will include gathering a detailed history from you and spending some time to identify any underlying causes of your elbow pain and dysfunction.

From there, Cypress physiotherapists in North Vancouver will perform a detailed assessment of your elbow and may also look at your neck, shoulder, and wrist as well, since dysfunction in these areas can often lead or contribute to elbow pain. This process will help us to determine the cause of your elbow pain and help us to develop a rehabilitation plan tailored to your specific individual needs.

In order to treat your tennis elbow, we may use physiotherapy treatment techniques such as manual therapy, Intramuscular stimulation (IMS), education, load management, and exercise therapy. Depending on your symptom severity and the period of time you have been experiencing symptoms your recovery time may vary.

For those who have milder symptoms, you should expect to see improvements within 6-8 weeks, whereas those with chronic symptoms which have persisted over long periods of time may take 6-12 months to fully heal the tendon.

By understanding the orthopedic and biomechanical underpinnings of how the body works, we can selectively employ the right techniques and create a sustainable and effective care plan to help you get your elbow back to full, pain-free functioning and participating in the things and activities that you love.

Call or go online to book an appointment for your elbow pain with Cypress Physiotherapy and Health in North Vancouver.