Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow usually presents with an intense pain that is localised over the outer aspect of the elbow, which is made worse with extending the wrist or fingers against resistance. There may be residual aching or throbbing sensation at rest.
What causes it?
Tennis elbow often arises after overloading the tendon, either from sports, gym or another activity. There is usually pain with gripping items or holding onto something and it can happen in those who do not play tennis! If the regional nerves have been irritated, there can also be pain along the arm.
How can I help myself?
For the majority, the symptoms will settle down with anti-inflammatory gels/creams and stretching/strengthening the forearm muscles. Sometimes you may need to use oral anti-inflammatory medicines to help with the pain.
You could also consider acupuncture or manual therapy for muscle tightness, but care should be taken so that this does not worsen your symptoms.
When to seek help?
If the elbow pain continues to limit your activities or if it is not improving despite trying various treatments, it is probably a good idea to be seen before it becomes chronic.
What are the treatment options?
Following assessment with a history and clinical examination, your clinician might organise an ultrasound of your elbow to assess tendon and identify whether it is a tendinopathy or if a tear is noted as well. Should a tear be noted, a follow-up MRI might be useful to confirm this.
Treatment often relies on physiotherapy, however, in some cases, shockwave therapy might be implemented. If a tear has been found, a PRP injection can help with tendon healing, but this should be discussed with your doctor prior to being undertaken.