Tennis elbow is a common name for lateral epicondylitis. Most people experience tennis elbow pain on the outside of their elbow. Sometimes it even refers into the forearm and wrist. The tennis elbow pain stems from irritated muscles and tendons that connect the forearm to the upper arm aka the elbow joint. The pain may be a dull ache, or even as severe as being unable to bend the elbow or grip objects. It’s often caused by repetitive motions and overuse of the arm that inflame the outside of the elbow. Funnily enough, playing tennis isn’t always the cause of tennis elbow. It can be as simple as being a desk worker typing on the computer all day.
It might make sense to focus all our energy on the elbow itself. That’s where the tennis elbow pain is right? Well… not so much. We definitely want to start at the elbow, to reduce the inflammation there. However, for long term results we need to look beyond the elbow to find exactly what is causing the elbow to be overused.
Your osteopath may also work on the triceps and biceps. These two big muscle groups cross the elbow joint, allowing the elbow to extend and bend respectively. The triceps and bicep muscles also cross the shoulder joint. So looking at how your shoulder is moving (or not moving) is super important when addressing tennis elbow pain. Particularly if your elbow pain is likely to be desk work related, we would question whether or not the elbow is over doing it because of lack of support at the shoulder joint.
If the shoulder joint is part of the problem, then we would need to look at how the neck and upper back is moving too. All our muscles and joints are connected and the joints also work as a team. So although your pain is in the elbow, your shoulder position may be the cause of your frustration with tennis elbow pain! So we might need to re-train so joint motions to reduce the stress on the elbow.
Depending on your symptoms and probable cause of your pain, your osteopath may prescribe you some exercises to aid in your recovery. Everyone is different when it comes to recovery, sometimes it’s a long road. For most people we expect you to be feeling better within 6-8 weeks.
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