|By Victoria Athey BSc MSc MCSP. Physiotherapist and Sports Massage Therapist at 360Athletic
The elbow ..so often forgotten, known only when bumped against a door causing that horrible sharp shooting pain (ouch!).
It is actually a complex joint and for many can be become a frustrating source of pain so if that is you read on for some tips to reduce and treat your pain.
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Anatomy of the Elbow
(here’s a brief summary we don’t want to bore you!)
- 3 bones: Humerus, Ulnar, Radius,
- Multiple Tendons & Muscles: Important ones are the biceps, triceps, forearm flexors and extensors
- Multiple Ligaments: Important ones are medial collateral and lateral collateral ligament which stabilise the joint
- Multiple Nerves: 3 main ones begin together at the shoulder and travel down the arm – Ulnar, Radial and Median Nerve
Phew talk about complicated! Lets get on to the helpful things:
WHAT is Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Even though the name suggest you only get this when playing tennis, this is not actually the case and any one can get ‘tennis elbow’. It occurs after overuse of the forearm and hand muscles causing discomfort and painful symptoms on the OUTSIDE of the elbow. Sometimes it can begging to spread down the forearm and even into the wrist. Simple activities such as opening a jar or pushing a door open can become painful.
HOW do I treat it?
- Offload the area (avoid complete rest if possible), instead modify painful activities to allow symptoms to settle. Ice can also be helpful to decrease any swelling.Modify and offload
- Pain management – Ice can be helpful to decrease any swelling, straps can also help for some individuals.
- Massage and manual therapy – Can help to reduce pain in the short term and keep muscles feeling looser helping you continue to participate in activities that are unavoidable.
- Exercises – Strengthening the area once pain has settled is key to build the muscles up to being able to tolerate activities you need them to do (the ones that have become painful). Start simple with gentle isometric (static) holds of the wrist up into a table and down into a table (or your hand). Progress on to isotonic (moving) exercises, rest your arm on a table, hold a light weight or a water bottle and raise you wrist to the ceiling. Aim for a weight that makes 12-15reps difficult to complete, repeat 4x. Gradually increase the weight over time as you get stronger.
Other common conditions
- Golfers Elbow (medial epicondylitis)
- Carpal Tunnel (ulnar neuropathy)
- Ligament sprain (e.g. ulnar collateral ligament damage)
- Traumatic injuries (e.g. fractures, breaks, dislocations)
Watch out for our NEW free EBOOK on common elbow pains for treatment and help (launching this month!).