Elbow tendinopathy – commonly known as tennis elbow – is an injury to the muscles that extend from the elbow to the wrist. Pain can start from different places down the arm (and sometimes even in the neck), generally in the lateral epicondyle, which is the bony outer part of the elbow where muscles from the hand and wrist are attached. 

What are common causes of elbow tendinopathy?

Elbow tendinopathy is caused by repetitive use of the muscles that control the wrist, hand and fingers which extend up the forearm, resulting in small tears in the tendon. 

Common causes include:

  • Excessive gripping activities 
  • Incorrect hand use while hammering, painting, typing etc 
  • Poor muscle and tissue health which makes it more susceptible to injury 
  • Incorrect technique while throwing, or hitting (hence its namesake). Tennis players believe the condition comes from high repetition of movement, such as serving, which causes tiny tears to open up in the tissue. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of elbow tendinopathy generally appear quite slowly, beginning with pain and a dull ache in the lateral epicondyle after excessive activity. Pain may improve once you have rested. As the condition gets worse, pain can spread down the arm and the elbow will be tender when touched. Pain may be worse after sleeping. 

In more severe cases, even the most minimal movements such a turning a key or picking up a plate will be painful. Pain may also be present in the neck. 

How is tennis elbow treated? 

In most cases, elbow tendinopathy can be treated by wearing an elbow and or wrist brace, stopping any activities that worsens pain, nerve gliding exercises, joint mobilisations and graded strengthening.  

Surgery may be required if symptoms don’t improve with wearing a brace, exercises and or cortisone injection. Your therapist can discuss with you and your GP and arrange a referral to a surgeon if required. 

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, or any other issues with the hand, arm or fingers, please feel free to get in touch, we’d be more than happy to help.