elbow 1Tennis elbow, also known as Lateral Epicondylalgia, is a common upper limb injury seen by hand therapists. It is equally common in both men and women aged between 30 and 50 years.

The term relates back to 1873 when modern tennis began and players started to experience pain outside their elbow.

Today, only five per cent of tennis players actually suffer from this injury.

Patients with this condition often complain of elbow pain, reduced grip strength and difficulty completing functional daily activities without pain.

Hand therapy specialist Thuy Tran from Hand Works Occupational Therapy says tennis elbow is commonly caused by activities that require repetitive use of the wrist.

“Examples of jobs that require this motion include computer work, painting and bricklaying,” Ms Tran says.

“This condition was previously thought to be an inflammatory one, however, recent studies have revealed that it is actually due to degenerative changes in the tendons around the elbow.”

“Sometimes the pain is so severe that patients have difficulty lifting a cup of coffee.”

Currently completing her PhD studies on workers with this injury, Ms Tran says that early diagnosis is best, as it allows treatment to be started early, before the condition becomes chronic.

“There are over 40 different conservative treatment methods available for the management of tennis elbow, however, none have been proven to provide long term benefits,” Ms Tran says.

She believes a holistic approach to the management of this injury is necessary to settle the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.

“Often patients get a corticosteroid injection hoping for an easy fix, however, they often find that the benefits of the injection are short lived, usually up to six weeks if any at all,” Ms Tran says.

If you are experiencing elbow pain, the following strategies might be helpful:

  • Avoid high risk elbow and wrist postures at home and work
  • Avoid activities that will further aggravate the injury, such as prolonged desk-work
  • Use an appropriate brace to minimise re-injury
  • If the problem persists, seek professional advice to minimise risk of the problem becoming a chronic one.

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