1. Tennis Elbow? But I don't play Tennis…
Lateral Epicondyalgia, AKA Tennis Elbow, (formerly known as Lateral Epicondylitis) is a disorder involving the structures of the elbow and forearm. Though it is called Tennis Elbow, the majority of people who develop it do so through non-tennis activities. The most common causes tend to be work-related activities, such as typing on a keyboard that is not positioned well or having to repetitively lift objects with certain hand or arm positions. Tennis Elbow is characterized by pain and discomfort on the outside of the elbow, occasionally radiating into the forearm or side of the arm. Generally, bringing your wrist backwards towards your forearm against resistance, gripping, and lifting certain objects will worsen the pain.
*Fun Fact: Even though playing tennis is not the most common way to develop Lateral Epicondyalgia, it is named as such due to amateur tennis players developing it by performing repetitive backhand swings, while not having the proper forearm strength to handle the high number of repetitions.*
2. So what exactly causes it?
a. There are multiple factors that can lead to developing Tennis Elbow, but the majority of them are related to bio-mechanical issues. With weakness in your forearm or shoulder stabilizers, or restricted range of motion in your wrist, elbow, or shoulder, the resulting compensations could lead you on a path to Tennis Elbow. The compensations are normally the back of the forearm muscles (forearm extensors) being overworked. This causes excessive and repetitive stresses on the tendons and bone (lateral epicondyle), which, if consistent enough, will cause pain.
3. How can I prevent it from developing?
As mentioned, this is a disorder caused by compensation of the forearm extensors. Thus, by making sure you have adequate strength and range of motion in your wrist and shoulder, these muscles will not have to pick up so much of the slack. From a clinical perspective, the majority of Tennis Elbow patients we have seen have restricted shoulder internal rotation and wrist extension. Working on both those areas, combined with stretching the back of the forearm are great preventative approaches. This can be accomplished through physical therapy modalities, orthopedic testing, neuromuscular testing, and physiotherapy rehabilitation.
4. I am not sure if it is Tennis Elbow, could it be something else?
Yes, it could be. There are multiple disorders that present with similar symptoms as Tennis elbow. Medial epicondylalgia, Tricep tendonitis, Olecranon Bursitis, and Posterior Impingement Syndrome all can be mistaken for Tennis Elbow. These conditions can all have similar symptoms, so it's important to have a doctor render an accurate diagnosis, so he or she can recommend the appropriate care approach to resolve it.
The views expressed in this article are intended to induce conversation. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Ask your doctor about any issues you may have.