Does your elbow hurt, and you have been diagnosed with tennis elbow? If yes, rest and lowering inflammation is the mainstay goal for treating it. Once the inflammation subsides, physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles and prevent recurrence of tennis elbow. Here is how physical therapy can help.
Before knowing the role of physical therapy, let’s understand what tennis elbow is and why does it happen.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is caused by inflammation of the forearm muscles that attach to the elbow. Common symptoms of tennis elbow are burning and pain on the outside of the elbow and reduced grip strength.
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury caused by repetitive action. Tennis elbow is commonly observed in racquet sports, but can also be seen in carpenters, plumbers, and painters.
Factors causing tennis elbow are different for everyone suffering from it. For treating tennis elbow, it is thus important to find out the factors responsible for your problem and manage them accordingly. Some common factors are:
- The tightness of forearm muscles: The tendons affected by tennis elbow are attached to the forearm muscles. For normal arm function, it’s important that forearm muscles are flexible and strong to perform the required tasks. If the muscles are not flexible, the load on these tendons increases, causing pain and inflammation.
- Repetitive motion: Tendons tend to break down when the strain is higher than what they can withstand. This could be due to small forces over a period of time or in a single motion where the force is so high that the tendon breaks. So, tennis elbow is common in individuals with hobbies or jobs that involve repetitive movements.
- Shoulder tightness: When movement at one joint is not normal, it alters the functioning of neighbouring joints. With a task that involves shoulder, wrist, and elbow, a lack of shoulder mobility increases the load on the wrist and elbow.
- Others: Ergonomic factors, such as sitting position, grip size of tools you use, and frequent use of vibrating tools increase the risk of tennis elbow.
Role of Physical Therapy
Physical therapy can help you with:
- Lowering pain
- Promoting tissue repair
- Restoring normal function
- Improving muscle strength
Your physical therapist will determine the factor(s) responsible for the tennis elbow and curate a treatment plan accordingly. Some treatment options are:
Functional training and weight-bearing exercises can improve muscle strength and flexibility. They also help to reduce muscle tightness. Some common exercises are ball squeeze, finger stretch, and wrist stretch. Exercises are usually advised once the pain eases. You may be able to see results within 8 weeks depending on your condition.
Manipulation and mobilization can help in lowering pain. These techniques are usually done as an adjunct to exercise or medications.
Shock Wave Therapy
Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy aids in stimulating the healing process of your body. Your physical therapist will use this technique at a definite interval to allow your body to heal between treatments.
As factors causing tennis elbow are different, a combination of treatment options used in all cases can be different. Your physical therapist will help you curate a treatment plan for a pain-free elbow.