Tennis Elbow: is the pain of gripping getting in the way of gardening, golf or lifting?

Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondyalgia orlateral elbow tendinosis, is the most common site of elbow pain. It affects 1-3% of the population and, in 20% of cases, the pain can last for up to two years. When you have Tennis Elbow gripping anything from a door handle to lifting a cup of tea can provoke a sharp pain in the outside of the elbow.

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is typically an issue to do with overload of the tendon that attaches the forearm muscles (responsible for extending the wrist) to the elbow. Over time the tendon becomes a potent source of pain. At this point it is worth noting that the level of pain does not relate to the level of damage. Interestingly, in a study of knee tendons it was found that the symptomatic tendons were actually thicker and stronger than those without symptoms!

How can we fix it?

Firstly try to modify how you lift and grip. When lifting a bag, people typically lift with their palms facing backwards also known as a pronated position. This will often trigger some pain. A quick and easy remedy is to lift a bag with your palm facing forwards. This redistributes the load from the muscles that attach to the outside of the elbow and places the load through the muscles that attach to the inside of the elbow.

The best way of dealing with tennis elbow is rather counter intuitive – it is to actually load the tendon gradually and progressively tore-condition it to accepting load. How it is loaded will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how long they last once your symptoms have been aggravated.

A quick example…

Mrs L. came to see me with a 3 year history of tennis elbow that prevented her from cutting vegetables. Once aggravated her pain could last the rest of the day. I gave her lifting and lifestyle advice and started loading her tendon by just asking her to hold a weight at the point of pain for 1 minute, three times in a row. After a short course of loading her symptoms resolved and she was able to go about her normal routine with no issues.

If tennis elbow or any other joint aches or pains are interfering with your usual activities please don’t hesitate to call us.  

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