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Tennis Elbow - It’s Not Just For Athletes

Even though lateral epicondylitis is commonly referred to as tennis elbow, less the 5% of all cases occur in people who play tennis. Activities that require force, such as lifting, twisting, or pulling can damage the tendon. Forceful activities, such as starting a lawnmower, can injure the extensor muscle fibers and lead to a sudden onset of tennis elbow.Lateral epicondyle elbow tennis extensor tendons forearm

Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is a condition that results from overuse of the forearm muscles. These forearm muscles extend your wrist and fingers. Your forearm tendons, often called extensor tendons, attach the muscles to bone. The tendon attaches to the lateral epicondyle on the outside of the elbow. The tendon usually involved in tennis elbow is called the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB). The ECRB muscle helps stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight.

Who Is At Risk For Developing Tennis Elbow?

Anyone who performs repetitive tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Tennis or racquetball players
  • Plumbers
  • Painters
  • Carpenters
  • Butchers

What is Tennis Elbow?

Initially the area around the Lateral Epicondyle may become inflamed, but the actual problem of tennis elbow involves chronic changes in the extensor tendon called tendinosis. In tendinosis, wear and tear on the tendon causes changes of the collagen fibers and the tendon is easily injured. The body responds by forming scar tissue, and eventually the tendon becomes thickened and stiff. The tendon never really has a chance to fully heal due to continued use, leaving the injured tendon weak and painful.

What Does Tennis Elbow Feel Like?

Your symptoms will start off as an ache in your elbow. If left untreated the pain will increase in intensity and may even radiate into your forearm and wrist. Other symptoms include

  • Tenderness over the lateral epicondyle (bony bump on outer part of elbow)
  • Difficulty doing common tasks, such as turning a doorknob or holding a coffee cup
  • Difficulty with gripping activities
  • Increased pain when you use your wrist and hand for lifting objects, opening a jar, or gripping something tightly, such as a knife and fork
  • Pain when lifting objects, especially with the elbow straight and palm facing downward
  • Stiffness in the elbow
  • A burning sensation over the lateral elbow with activity

How Is Tennis Elbow Treated?

At the first sign of pain try resting and ice for 10-15 minutes at a time several times a day. Always use a cloth in between the ice and skin. Tennis Elbow Home Physical Therapy Exercises

Make an appointment with your physical therapist. A licensed physical therapist can perform a comprehensive examination to determine the cause of the pain and develop a treatment plan. All of the Belgrade and Bozeman Physical providers at Pro Physio are trained in FAKTR which is Functional and Kinetic Treatment with Rehab. FAKTR therapists can apply soft tissue release with active rehabilitation for faster results. You may also want to try some exercises at home. Tennis Elbow Forearm Counterforce PT Brace

If you cannot avoid performing the activities that cause pain, a counterforce brace may be worn to spread the pressure throughout the arm instead of putting it all on the tendon. These braces; however, are not a substitute for rehab exercises.


This Tennis Elbow Blog is brought to you as an educational service of Pro Physio. Pro Physio offeres Physical Therapy services to the Bozeman and Belgrade, Montana areas, where they offer individualized PT services in modern, comfortable Physical Therapy Clinics.

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