Mr. Robinson woke up on Monday morning and noticed that his elbow was causing him a lot of pain. As he went about his morning routines he tried to figure out why on earth it was hurting so badly. He thought to himself, “I didn’t bang it on anything this weekend. There are no scrapes. What could be causing my elbow to hurt?” A few days ago he had spent his Saturday making his flower gardens for the summer. At the end of the day he had felt tired but had no pain like he did today.
Mr. Robinson is suffering from a condition commonly known as tennis elbow, the medical diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis. Tennis elbow received this name because it is so common amongst tennis athletes, but it is not just limited to tennis players. It occurs in individuals who perform strenuous activities requiring high demands of their forearms. Some common activities that have high workloads on these muscles are hammering, painting, chain sawing, and tennis; any prolonged activity involving gripping and movement at the wrist that overworks the forearm muscles. Tennis elbow is an injury that happens relatively soon after its causative activity. Like all muscles in the body when the forearm muscles are stressed with high workloads micro tears in the muscle happen. Tennis elbow pain is felt on the outside of the elbow, where a number of the forearm muscles converge and attach.
What to do?
Tennis elbow is an uncomfortable condition that can be easily resolved when appropriately treated. If you suspect this is what you have you should see your doctor of physical therapy. They will determine if some other elbow problem is causing your pain, and they will ensure your complete recovery. In the past, this condition was treated with corticosteroid shots but the decreased long term benefits of this method have encouraged more conservative treatments, those offered by physical therapy. If tennis elbow is left alone, or ignored, it can become a much more significant problem taking longer to heal, and also not healing as completely. If you are having muscular or joint pain the sooner you see a physical therapist the sooner you can be on the road to recovery.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include pain with forearm use, pain while bending the wrist either down or back, and when gripping or lifting. The pain can be sharp or burning. Lastly, the hallmark sign for tennis elbow is pain over the boney prominence on the outside of the elbow.
Early on physical therapy treatment will be designed to relieve the symptoms. To maximize the benefits from therapy it will be important to rest the forearm muscles. This can be done by changing how movements are performed and by avoiding activities that would aggravate and reinforce the injury. Ice is helpful to reduce pain and also works to decrease inflammation in the area. As the tissue heals and is less irritable treatment will change to a strengthening and restructuring of the forearm tissue.
When at physical therapy, some of the treatments may include deep tissue massage of the forearm muscles to realign the muscle tendon fibers. Ultrasound may additionally be utilized to achieve the same goal. The physical therapist will instruct proper body mechanics for stretches to align the regenerated tissue. The muscle strength will be regained by progressing the individual through increasingly challenging exercises. The exercises will begin with minimal loading of the tendon from isometric exercises, exercises in which the muscle is activated but there is no movement. Eccentric exercises will be performed next, followed by concentric exercises. The exercises occur while the muscle is activated and becomes longer or shorter, respectively. It takes a skill health care provider, like a physical therapist, to manage the day by day decisions creating the best opportunity for the body to heal appropriately. Tennis elbow may be restricting and bothersome, but if you have this you can expected to make a full recovery when you properly address it. Call to schedule your appointment at Total Performance Physical Therapy today!