Elbow Pain Causes & Treatment – Could it be Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow or elbow tendinopathy is a common condition causing tendon pain.

What causes Tennis Elbow or Elbow Tendinopathy?
Tennis elbow is a condition of overuse meaning the tendon did not have the strength or condition to withstand the load that you have been putting it under, and without adequate time for recovery.

Swelling or inflammation in a normal aspect of tendinopathy as the body recognises the injury and attempts to heal. This is because inflammation is a normal aspect of the healing process.

In cases that have persisted over a longer period, it is common for the tendon structure to change at a cellular level to what is normal. This needs to be considered in a recovery plan.

What treatment is used for Tennis Elbow pain?
Specific loading of the tendon can reduce pain while also to promoting healing and increasing the strength of the tendon. With the right type of loading to each individual case, people can find themselves without pain and feeling stronger again in a relatively short amount of time.

In cases that have persisted and are related to repetitive activity, it is common that a graduated loading program over a 2 to 6 week period will alleviate pain and when continued for a longer period of 8-12 weeks it is possible to promote cellular changes back towards normal within the tendon. This cellular change is essential for reducing the recurrence of elbow pain again in the future.

Should rest be used to relieve Tennis Elbow pain?
Resting any tendon in the body, in this case, tennis elbow will reduce the pain initially… However a rested tendon is also a tendon that the longer it is rested, the weaker it becomes. This is where many people can get stuck with ongoing tendinopathy. Unfortunately when the person tries to become active again, this weaker tendon is now more sensitive and susceptible to experiencing pain. Sadly, many people in this situation end up believing that there is something permanently wrong with their bodies and they end up avoiding specific activities forever. Often the activities they avoid, are activities they love or need to work and this is what is so sad about these cases. Especially, when there is such an easy solution with the right assessment and specific management.

Is feeling pain when experiencing Tennis Elbow always bad?
Sometimes tendon pain is OK, when doing specific strengthening exercises to promote healing. This is because there may be some cellular stimulation that occurs to promote healing that may also trigger pain during movement.

If your pain is not reducing after activity stops, an assessment is recommended so that you can receive specific advice relevant to your case so that you can get back to moving and doing the things that you want as soon as possible.

What is the best long term treatment option for Tennis Elbow?
Although there are many overlapping factors in every tennis elbow case, every case and every person is different. For this reason, the best long term treatment option for you starts with an assessment with your trusted therapist. At the end of your first consultation you should expect to understand the contributing factors as to why you have Tennis Elbow and what the graduated plan will look like to get you back to feeling strong and pain free again!

Written by:
Ryan Michell, Physiotherapist
Proactive Health + Movement

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