Here we are, in the middle of tennis season! Wimbledon’s buzz has enticed us to pick up our racquets, and head to the courts! And why not, it’s a great sport. Like any physical activity, whilst it’s great for our all round health, it can come with the odd common injury! The most common are lower limb injuries such as ankle and knee sprains & strains.
This is due to the high impact nature of the sport; the jarring, the pivoting & the pounding. All this can place the soft tissues under great stress causing sudden and acute, or chronic overuse injuries. Upper limb injuries are usually caused by fast and repetitive arm movements, coupled with high forces and loading placed upon the arm upon racquet impact. These injuries tend to be overuse in nature. The most common upper limb injury we see in clinic is lateral epicondylitis, most commonly known as tennis elbow.
However, you don’t have to be a tennis player to suffer with tennis elbow! We see many people all year round presenting with it. They come from many professions where the arm is used in a repetitive nature, such as dentists, electricians, decorators, musicians, and desk based workers (typing).
So, Tennis Elbow. What is it?
When the muscles and tendons of the forearm are overloaded and over stressed, micro tears and inflammation can occur near at the point at which the forearm muscles attach to the outside elbow (the lateral epicondyle). This will be characterised by pain on the outside of the forearm, pain when bending the arm, lifting, gripping small objects, and when twisting the arm. There may also be restricted movement in the arm and be difficult to fully extend.
How do we treat it?
What we find in clinic is that the soft tissue in the forearm is incredibly tight and sensitive to touch. The area around the elbow can feel very hard where it should be soft and pliable and can be very painful. The idea is to loosen the soft tissue, increase circulation and promote muscle/tendon repair. We tend not to go straight into the site of pain as this can be very difficult to work on straight away. It can be painful and uncomfortable to the patient which can lead to more tension and thus is counterproductive. So, we start off by loosening the rest of the forearm and gently work around the elbow until it gives a little bit and becomes less painful to treat. This can take time and usually 2 or 3 treatments are needed to really get the benefit of the soft tissue work. However, it does work and we get very successful outcomes!
Whilst there are no helpful stretches we can give you for this type of injury, we can help you with k-taping (kinesiology taping) and even show you how to do it yourself at home to give the area some support whilst still allowing movement to be able to carry out every day tasks.