By WIN Contributor: Jeff Dill, Physiotherapist

Are you experiencing pain in the outer part of your elbow?  Did it start as a minor annoyance but is now affecting your ability to perform your job or extracurricular activities?  You may have lateral elbow tendinopathy, commonly referred to as “tennis elbow”.

Structure of the Elbow

The elbow is a complex structure containing multiple joints made by the articulations of the humerus, ulna and radius – the latter two being the two bones in the forearm.  In addition to the bony makeup of these joints, there are multiple muscles, and vessels – both vascular and neurologic – passing across, or acting on, it.

A group of muscles which can perform elbow/wrist/finger extension all have a common origin on the outer aspect of the elbow joint, called the lateral epicondyle of the humerus (note, the humerus is actually the bone in the upper arm, but we’re talking about the lower aspect of it here).  Since multiple muscles all arise from the same location, this can lead to increased stress being placed here (lateral epicondyle) which overtime can result in pain.  The discomfort can be localized to the outer aspect of the elbow but can also radiate down the muscles along the backside of the forearm (not into the fingers/hand).

Who Is At Risk

Individuals whose job entails a lot of gripping, think construction or manual labor workers, as well as jobs involving a lot of time spent (typing) on the computer are at risk of getting this condition due to the repetitive nature of their work.  Additionally, individuals who spend a lot of time playing racquet sports, such as tennis, may also develop this painful condition if they play too much without doing the proper stretches and strengthening exercises.

What Can Be Done to Fix This?

If you think you’ve developed lateral elbow tendinopathy, the first step would be to visit a physiotherapist who can do a full assessment to rule out other pathologies and confirm the diagnosis.  Once confirmed a physiotherapist can perform soft tissue techniques to relieve the tension the muscle, use modalities, such as laser, to help improve blood flow and reduce any excessive inflammation if present (note that inflammation is not the primary cause of pain in chronic cases), and show you strengthening and stretching exercises to be performed at home.  So instead of waiting around hoping it will resolve on its own, why not come see a physiotherapist who can expedite the healing process and get you back performing pain-free work, or enjoying more time participating in the activities you love!

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