Have you just recently picked up a racket sport such as Tennis, Badminton, Squash, or even Golf, which requires repeated gripping and arm movements, and now your dominant elbow and forearm are hurting? There is a good chance you may have overworked your forearm muscles which has led to an overuse injury of the common extensor tendon, which is more commonly known as Tennis Elbow or lateral epicondylitis. 

What is Tennis Elbow, and how does it present?

Lateral epicondylitis is a degenerative overuse injury to the extensor carpi radialis muscle and the common extensor tendon. Research studies investigating lateral epicondylitis patients with a diagnostic ultrasound have found calcifications, micro-tears, and thickening of the common extensor tendon and extensor carpi radialis muscle. These findings are common findings with degenerative overuse injuries that involve tendons.

Lateral epicondylitis most commonly presents with a slow onset of elbow pain, more specifically located on the elbow. The pain usually improves with rest and gets worse with activity. The pain most commonly starts 1 to 3 days after picking up an unaccustomed sport or activity that involves repetitive gripping and forearm extension. Lateral epicondylitis can also be precipitated with an acute injury or strain of the extensor muscles, such as lifting a heavy object or performing a very hard backhand in tennis. Such an acute injury can lead to a more chronic lateral epicondylitis if left untreated or returning to sport or work too early.

Who is most commonly affected by Tennis Elbow?

Although lateral epicondylitis is also referred to as Tennis Elbow, only about 10% of all patients present with lateral epicondylitis are tennis players. It is also very common for right-handed golfers to have lateral epicondylitis in the left arm and vice versa for left-handed golfers.

Not only athletes present with Tennis Elbow. Maybe you just got a puppy recently and are throwing balls or frisbees when playing with the puppy. This can also put a strain on your forearm muscles and cause lateral epicondylitis. Mechanics who tend to have repeated gripping and twisting motion using a handheld tool at work can also be predisposed to presenting with lateral epicondylitis.

How do we assess Tennis Elbow?

At the Boca Raton Sports Chiropractic office, we will take ample time to perform a complete and thorough patient history. The patient examination at our office includes palpation of the forearm muscles, which presents tenderness 1-2 cm distal to the lateral epicondyle where the common extensor tendon inserts on the arm. The doctor will feel any adhesions, trigger points, and tight spots in the involved muscles. The doctor will also bring the patient’s arm and wrist into specific positions to better understand what tissues are involved in the injury to come up with a specific conservative treatment plan suited to the patient’s needs.

How do we treat Tennis Elbow?

In our practice, we utilize Active Release Technique , Graston Technique, and Kinesio® Taping along with other modalities such as Class IV Laser and Electrical Stimulation to treat the pain. We also create rehabilitation exercise plans specific to our patients to ensure that the pain is not coming back in the future.

Active Release Technique (ART) is a muscle release technique used to break up adhesions and tightness in the extensor carpi radialis muscle and the common extensor tendon.

Graston Technique involves working the common extensor tendon with a stainless-steel tool which increases local blood flow and accelerates the healing process. Just like ART, Graston can help break up adhesions in the muscle belly of the forearm extensors.

Kinesio® Taping can help give structural support to the patient’s elbow and some increased proprioceptive input, which can decrease the pain signal to the brain.

Low-level laser therapy, also known as cold laser, is used to promote cellular healing.  Cold laser therapy is beneficial for pain relief and can accelerate the body’s ability to heal itself. Laser has a ton of supporting evidence, which keeps its use in pain management. It has few side effects and is well tolerated by the elderly patient population.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I need surgery? How do I know a Chiropractor is right for me?

Research has shown that 80-90% of Tennis Elbow cases will resolve spontaneously within 1 or 2 years. A conservative chiropractic treatment plan aims to help the patient speed up the healing process to determine the injury in as short of a period as possible.

How long does it take to recover from my Tennis Elbow?

Recovery time is dependent on a variety of factors. Some of those factors include the age of the patient. Tissue healing is quicker in younger patients than in elderly patients. Recovery can also depend on the patient’s lifestyle and compliance with the treatment plan.

Acute tendinitis must be treated right away as the recovery time is much shorter than when it becomes chronic tendinitis. According to the most recent research on tissue healing times, an acute epicondylitis healing time could be 6-10 weeks, while chronic epicondylitis could take up to 3-6 months.

When should I see a chiropractor for my pain?

If you are dealing with pain and suspect you may be experiencing tennis elbow like symptoms, we are here for you. If you want a same-day examination and treatment for your sports injury, call our Boca Raton chiropractic and sports injury office at 561-997-8898 or schedule online.