SWING INTO SPRING
As springtime approaches, many of us are eager to get back to all of the outdoor activities and projects that have been put on hold by the winter weather. This enthusiasm coupled with that period of inactivity can at times lead to a variety of painful overuse conditions, including the very common condition lateral elbow tendinopathy. “Tennis elbow,” as it is commonly called, affects more than just tennis players. Many other repetitive activities, including gardening, manual labor jobs, home improvement projects, and even computer work, can lead to elbow pain that saps grip strength to the point where even holding a cup of coffee can be painful.1
Common Extensor Tendon Anatomy
The common extensor tendon attaches at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus bone at the lateral elbow and anchors five muscles of the forearm whose primary functions are to extend the wrist and fingers and supinate the forearm. When the tendon is overused, repetitive stress on the tendon causes microtears that lead to degeneration of the tendon, called tendinosis. The resulting pain from this process leads to avoidance of activity and weakening of the muscles which continues the cycle of degeneration.1 Other risk factors of exacerbating this pain include shoulder and neck pain, which can alter the way that you move your arm, leading to overuse.2
Signs to watch out for include:3
- Pain on the outside of the elbow or into the forearm
- Weakness and pain while gripping objects
- Difficulty extending fingers or wrist without pain
- Pain without a memorable injury or incident
- Neck, shoulder, or wrist soreness in conjunction with elbow pain
Treating Your Elbow Pain
Research has shown that exercise and manual therapy interventions are preferable and more effective than pharmacologic treatments, including the use of oral NSAIDs or steroid injections. In fact, while providing short-term relief, steroid injections can actually lead to worse pain and function at 6 and 12 months when compared to doing nothing at all!4
At Excel Physical Therapy, our therapists will perform a comprehensive examination in order to design the right individual program for you. Our program consists of hands-on manual therapy as well as specific exercises to help your tendon heal. While the condition and treatment can be painful at first, our therapists will help you learn how to control your pain and still make progress by strengthening your tendon and muscles to accelerate your recovery. Our low volume treatment model ensures that we have the time to spend with you to focus on proper progressions and address other areas that might be affecting your elbow, including your shoulder, at every visit.
Lateral elbow tendinopathy can last for months if left untreated, but if it is addressed within the first 3 months, you will achieve faster and better results so you can get back to sports, gardening, and home improvement, pain-free! Contact us today to get started.
- Vaquero-Picado, A. et al. Lateral epicondylitis of the elbow. Effort Open Rev. 2016 Nov; 1(11): 391-397.
- Day, JM. et al. A comprehensive rehabilitation program for treating lateral elbow tendinopathy. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019 Sept; 14(5): 818-829.
- Bisset, LM. & Vincenzino B. Physiotherapy management of lateral epicondylalgia. J Physiotherapy. 2015. 61: 174-181.
- Coombes, BK. et al. Management of lateral elbow tendinopathy: one size does not fit all. JOSPT. 2015. 45(11): 938-949.