Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as “tennis elbow,” is one of the most prevalent overuse injuries plaguing middle-aged adults (aged 30-50). At Ascend Hand Therapy, we currently treat 4-5 patients with this condition weekly. Even one of our therapists, Oliver Serrano, OTR, CHT, MBA, developed a mild case of it a couple of years ago from pulling his luggage around NYC while using improper body mechanics (for shame!). This condition results in pain and tenderness to the touch over the lateral epicondyle and the tendons that attach to that bony area.
Tennis elbow is typically caused from overuse of the wrist and digit extensors, however clinically, some cases present from striking the outside (lateral) part of the elbow on a hard surface, such a doorframe. While this condition is known as tennis elbow and gets its name from tennis players who grip their racquet too tightly, a very small percentage (fewer than 5%) of those diagnosed are caused by playing tennis.
The treatment of tennis elbow varies depending on the severity and the amount of time with the injury. Conservative treatment at our clinic consists of splinting or bracing the wrist and/or elbow, modalities (such as cold laser, moist heat, ice, TENS, ultrasound), injury-specific exercises to regain flexibility and strength, pain reduction techniques, education about the injury and body mechanics, as well as soft tissue massage and manual stretching by one of our ace Certified Hand Therapists. More severe or chronic cases are treated with a cortisone injection by a physician. Only the most severe and chronic cases of tennis elbow are treated with surgical intervention, which involves repairing the injured muscle-tendon unit around the elbow. The good news is that even if you develop tennis elbow, 90% to 95% of patients will improve and recover with conservative therapy!
Tennis Elbow Dos and Don’ts
- Lift objects with your palm up
- Stop when pain or tenderness starts in your elbow
- Massage your elbow at the spot of pain
- Utilize counter-force brace or wrist brace as needed to relieve pain
- Utilize kinesiology taping as needed if you will be more active than normal
- Avoid activities that cause pain
- Stretch your wrist and fingers out prior to activity and throughout the day
- Utilize proper body mechanics
- Lift objects with your palm down
- Continue an activity if your pain increases at your elbow
- Adhere to the old adage “no pain, no gain” when it comes to tennis elbow
- Ignore the pain
- Continue performing activities that cause pain
- Wear your counter-force brace over your radial nerve (this is a common mistake
Push Elbow Brace
Titan Wrist Brace