Some thoughts and experiences on treating tennis elbow, how it can be managed and preventing its recurrence.
Tennis elbow is the name given to pain around the lateral elbow, and sometimes equated with the term lateral epicondylitis. Tennis elbow however is a colloquial term and is used for lateral elbow pain generally, most sufferers in fact hardly ever play tennis at all!!
The dysfunction most commonly presents with pain and tenderness at the attachments of the ex tensor digitotirum communis in the forearm, and through the brachioradialis muscle. Pain sometimes radiates or shoots down towards the hands, and it can be a feature of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) patterns that come about from desk working posture and affect many people.
Another part of this pattern is the shoulder girdle. While many sufferers are not aware of it, the muscles attaching to their shoulder blade are almost always also dysfunctional. they tighten up from being held in a static position for long periods and start to restrict mobility or develop trigger points. Quite often I will find a trigger point in the teres minor muscle that refers to the elbow recreating the pain. Although the elbow is also sore, it is likely the root of the problem is with the shoulder girdle, and therefore also the upper back.
In treatment softening those muscles and improving circulation with manual techniques, stretching and acupuncture can alleviate the main symptoms. With a broader outlook we can also commonly see postural causes, hunched shoulders etc which create the conditions for this pain to develop. After the pain is dealt with It is through postural re education and exercise that lasting progress can be made.
This is why after treating the tightened congested tissues, I always teach a patient some techniques they can use at home to manage the condition, to soften the tissue, release the fascia, stretch and mobilise. Part of this is also giving people simple postural cues and awareness exercises so their working posture is less damaging to their well being.