Virtually everyone that is moderately active has or will experience tendonitis at some point in their life. One of the most common forms of tendonitis is pain in the lateral part of the elbow where the muscles responsible for extending the wrist attach. The most common muscle affected in this condition is the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB), which helps to stabilize the wrist when the arm is straight. Pain and inflammation of this region is known as Lateral Epicondylitis aka “Tennis Elbow.”
What Causes It?
Lateral Epicondylitis is an over-use injury, and affects people of all ages. In fact, you don’t have to be a tennis player to get this condition. Anyone whose work requires repetitive motions is susceptible (painters, laborers, carpenters etc.) Muscle imbalances also exacerbate the condition. Over-time micro tears form in these muscles from over-use or imbalances leading to pain and inflammation. The elbow may even appear swollen. The position of the ECRB muscle is more susceptible to injury due to increased friction. With repeated use this muscle can become worn passing over the bones in your elbow leading to micro-tears and ultimately inflammation.
Some symptoms include:
- Pain at the lateral aspect of the elbow worse with activity
- Weakness in grip strength
- Swelling in the lateral part of the elbow
What Can You Do To Fix It?
The first thing you should do is try to avoid activities that seem to aggravate the condition. This may mean altering certain activities, or even taking a break from certain activities. I often recommend taking an entire week off from exercise then trying to modify activities that seem to irritate it. Most cases are non-surgical and can be helped effectively by physical medicine. My treatment typically involves a passive modality to decrease inflammation such as Ultrasound. We then look at the surrounding muscles and begin to release the tight muscles causing the inflammation. Consider a practitioner who uses Instrument Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) such as ConnecTX® as this serves to break up the adhesions in the muscles that are causing the irritation and inflammation allowing the muscles to breathe and heal. Lastly, we must stretch and strengthen the muscles of the arm to promote proper function and balance.
A few self help tips!
- Consider a counter force brace for the elbow. This will allow the muscles of the elbow to rest.
- Alternate ice and moist heat until swelling subsides
- Stretch out the forearm extensors and flexors
As always, consult your chiropractic physician to rule out other conditions before beginning to self treat.