Sports chiropractors are highly skilled therapists that assess, diagnose and treat tennis elbow. Sports chiropractors utilise both hands on therapies such as massage, taping, bracing and elbow joint treatments in conjunction with more active exercise and rehabilitation protocols.
Our sports chiropractors main goals with treatments are to
- Reduce your symptoms (pain)
- Improve your function (what you can do)
- Educate you on how to prevent reoccurrence (self management)
One of our sports chiropractors Chris Knee will talk about tennis elbow.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow goes by many different names depending on where you’re reading about it. Terms such as extensor tendinopathy, lateral epicondylalgia, lateral epicondylopathy, lateral tendinitis and lateral epicondylitis are all fairly popular.
Tennis elbow comprises of degenerative changes to what is known as the common extensor tendon (see image above). This is a group of tendons that move your wrist into extension. In the acute stages there is typically some inflammation called tendinitis. In the later stages there is little inflammation and more of a pathological (degenerated) tendon called tendinopathy.
The most common muscle involved is called the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB).
How do they occur?
Tennis elbow is typically caused by repeated manual activities that involve wrist extension, such as playing tennis, using a hammer (or tools) or simply sitting on a mouse all day at the office.
One off abusive movements such as a day of heavy lifting can cause tennis elbow. What is fair more common however are lots of little unnoticed strains to the common extensor tendon (micro-trauma) and then some eventual breakdown and cellular changes in the tendon (bad guys move in).
Once this process takes place the end result is pain, tendon pathology and muscle system impairments (poor movement) about the wrist and elbow.
Who is affected?
About 3% of Australians will get tennis elbow at some point. Males and females are fairly equally affected with people in the age group of 35-50 most affected.
Do they heal?
People recovering from tennis elbow should expect a full recovery and excellent prognosis. Around 85% of people should expect a recovery in 12 months. With the condition typically lasting 3-12 months.
People who have high strain and manual occupations have a much poorer prognosis and typically do not recover as quickly or as well. This makes sense however, as the mechanism of injury (heavy work) does not stop preventing prompt recovery.
How do sports chiropractors treat them?
The current evidence supports the following treatment options. The sports chiropractors at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) will follow the below protocol.
- Patient education – highlighting all the above information about the condition and importantly the do’s and don’ts (load management).
- Rehabilitation exercises – very important to improve the condition and prevent recurrence.
- Joint mobilisations in the neck, elbow and wrist if relevant – all three areas have evidence (research) for improving aspects tennis elbow.
- Bracing and taping – for symptom modification and rehabilitation.
It is very important that the final point be made. Cortisone injections are no longer recommended for tennis elbow. While they can bring short-term relief, they can also render exercise treatments ineffective and can lead to a lack of recovering from tennis elbow. There is high-level evidence for this statement.