Q&A: Tennis Elbow

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is an umbrella term: it means different things for different people. Just like saying, ‘I play tennis’ means something quite different when I say it compared to when Roger Federer says it.

Still, for most people tennis elbow means pain in the tendons on the outside of the elbow.

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What does tennis elbow have to do with tennis?

Tennis elbow can affect anyone who uses their elbow (that’s most of us). Because tennis asks a lot of the elbow in quick bursts, it can sometimes be the trigger for aggravating the tendons of the muscles of the forearm.

What is a tendon?

Tendons attach muscle to bone. The tendons in tennis elbow attach the muscles of your forearm to the bone on the outside of your elbow (the humerus).

What happens to the tendon in tennis elbow?

The tendons of the muscles in your forearm can become stressed out by doing too much, too little, being compressed awkwardly or getting irritated at what’s going on around them. When they get stressed, the nerves around them pick up on this and send danger signals to your brain. Your brain weighs up these messages and gives you a pain response to bring your attention to the area.

So the tendon is damaged?

Sometimes, not always. When stressed out, tendons often get disorganised (like most of us!). The nervous system does too and this means that sometimes you can have quite a lot of pain, even when the tendon itself isn’t torn or damaged. Your physio can assess your elbow to determine whether your pain is a good reflection of the health of the tissue.

What can be done about it?

There are several options for managing tennis elbow, and each needs to be matched to the person who’s experiencing it. The options involve exercises, manual therapy, advice for movement, taping, braces or treatment for other parts of the body that might be connected to the pain such as the shoulder or the neck. If the problem is with tennis itself, technique adjustments, grip changes or training programs can help to control the pain.

I need to know more…

We’d be happy to run a Q&A with your elbow right in front of us! Just call to make an appointment for an assessment with a physio on 9364 4073 or book online.