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Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylalgia) does affect tennis players, but it can also affect anyone who overuses the muscles that extend the wrist. These muscles come from the outside of the elbow and go into the hand. Tennis elbow causes elbow pain, mostly on the outside of the elbow. The pain is normally worse with gripping or lifting. This condition can occur with any activity that involves repeated or sustained extension of the wrist. Sporting activities such as tennis, badminton and squash, as well as occupational activities such as painting and carpentry are commonly associated with tennis elbow. However, a newer wave of patients are presenting with tennis elbow from computer use. A number of factors can contribute to tennis elbow developing from computer use, these include:
– Poor posture around the shoulders; when the shoulders are in a poor position the muscles around the wrist have to work harder with typing and mouse use, this can lead to overuse
– Poor posture around the wrist; if your keyboard is too high the muscles that extend the wrist are shortened, making it harder for these muscles to work efficiently
– Extended periods of laptop use; the smaller keyboard on a laptop and the proximity of the screen to the user make it difficult to have a good posture while using one
– Infrequent breaks from the desk
While many people search for a tennis elbow cure, the solution normally comes from a combination of changes. Your Chartered Physiotherapist will discuss your work posture and advise you on techniques to take the pressure off your elbow. If using a laptop your physiotherapist may recommend a separate mouse and keyboard, and a laptop stand, to help improve your posture. Our Chartered Physiotherapists can also come to your workplace to assess your ergonomics at work.
It is important to assess the strength of the arm from the shoulder down to the hand and address any strength deficits that are present with a comprehensive exercise programme. Stiffness can be present in the elbow and occasionally in the neck. Mobilising the elbow and neck to relieve any restrictions can be helpful with your elbow pain. You may benefit from a tennis elbow strap to relieve the pressure on the elbow muscles. Your physiotherapist can advise you on this.
Although traditionally referred to as lateral epicondylitis, (-itis meaning inflammation), newer research has not found any evidence of inflammation in tennis elbow (Coombes et al, 2009). This is likely to be the reason that people often find only limited benefit from anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS).
If your tennis elbow is associated with sport, your physiotherapist will discuss your technique, the equipment you use and your training schedule. These can all contribute to the development of tennis elbow. In this case you may benefit from movement screening which identifies any ‘flaws’ in movement. Our chartered physiotherapist David Richards has vast experience in functional training.
Contact us at our Ballsbridge clinic for further information.