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Tennis Elbow

With the tennis season just around the corner many of you will be preparing for a long summer on the courts. The team at McNaughton Physiogrange are on hand imageto advise and treat any aches and pains and have compiled some useful pointers on common injuries to watch out for, starting with tennis elbow.

Tennis Elbow (Lateral epicondylitis) is a chronic inflammation of the Extensor muscles of the forearm due to general overuse e.g. gripping, lifting objects. The onset of the pain is usually gradual with tenderness felt on or below the joints' bony prominence.
Nearly half of all Tennis players will suffer from this disorder at some point however tennis players actually account for less than 5% of all reported cases making the term for this something of a misnomer!


The damage that tennis elbow incurs consists of tiny tears in the tendon and muscle sleeves. As the injury heals these areas can often tear again, which leads to haemorrhaging and the formation of rough tissue and calcium deposits. Collagen, a protein leaks out from around the injured area causing inflammation. The resulting pressure can restrict the blood flow and pinch the radial nerve, one of the main nerves supplying the hand.
The pain is often felt on gripping, lifting and carrying just below the bend of the elbow. Occasionally the pain will radiate down towards the wrist. You may also experience difficulty in fully extending the arm due to inflamed muscles and ligaments. The pain will typically last for 6-12 weeks, with the discomfort continuing for as little as 3 weeks to several years in chronic cases.

Relief of Tennis Elbow

Ideally stop doing anything which exacerbates the pain- this is often not easy! Take frequent breaks, as re-injury is inevitable without adequate rest. For the problem to resolve completely treatment is usually required. At the McNaughton Physiogrange Clinic, several approaches can be used.
Massage will help relieve stress in the muscles, with appropriate exercise prescribed to strengthen and stretch the area and prevent re-injury. Electrotherapy modalities may also be utilised in order to settle the pain. This along with prescribed Ibuprofen/Asprin from your G.P will help to control the symptoms of inflammation.
For stubborn cases a corticosteroid injection is often useful but cannot be used in the long term due to associated side effects. Fewer than 3% of cases require a surgical opinion.

To Prevent Tennis Elbow

  • Lift objects with the palm facing the body.
  • Try specific strengthening exercises as prescribed by your Physiotherapist.
  • Stretching the appropriate muscles before any stressful activities involving the arm will reduce the risk of re-injury.
  • Discontinue/modify the action which causes strain on your elbow. Warm up properly before the activity and apply ice afterwards.
  • An elbow clasp applied below the point of strain may help.

This article was written by the McNaughton Physiogrange Team and first appeared in the June 2008 edition of 702 Gazette

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