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Tennis Elbow: What You Need to Know

If you’ve ever noticed an ache around the outside of your elbow that just doesn’t seem to go away, you might be experiencing a condition commonly known as tennis elbow. Once it starts, this type of injury can affect your strength and function in your arm. So, if you’re feeling that ache and haven’t done anything about it, now might be the time. 

Despite its name, this condition rarely affects tennis players.

It’s most common in sports and occupations that require repetitive movements – think computer work, climbing, heavy labor jobs, etc.  Tennis elbow is a form of a tendinopathy – affecting the tendons of the forearm muscles – classically called tendonitis.  The tendons undergo a degenerative process as a result of highly repetitive stresses. This process causes: increased blood to flow to the area; collagen creating cells; and ground substance. This cascade of changes can lead to pain and discomfort in the area – as well as poorly formed tendon structure which is then vulnerable to further injury.

Due to the nature of the injury, and the general inability to stop activities that aggravate the condition, it can take from a few months to up to two years for the tendon to fully recover and for pain to subside. It is possible for the condition to subside on its own, but there are steps you can take to decrease the duration of the symptoms.

Treatments for this condition vary greatly from surgery at the most extreme end, and to wait-and-see on the other, with everything in between. At Balanced we focus on rehabilitating the tendon through gradual loading of the tissue to reorganize collagen; and soft tissue work to relax overactive muscles; and education to empower our patients to heal quicker. We generally recommend avoiding bracing, cortisone shots, and surgery. By optimizing the environment for the tissue to heal, our patients often obtain quicker results and are able to return to normal activity and reach their goals within a more predictable time frame.  

Bryan Esherick PT,DPT