NCTV Episode 64

Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-

  • What it is
  • The causes
  • Self help tips
  • Treatments available
  • Preventative measures


If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-

Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 64 which is all about Tennis Elbow and how you can prevent or treat it.

So Wimbledon season is now upon us at the time of recording this, having started earlier this week, so Tennis Elbow seemed an appropriate theme for this week.

Despite the name of the condition, tennis elbow is not just a problem incurred exclusively by tennis players and in fact, I see more clients in clinic who have tennis elbow from other activities unrelated to tennis. However, saying that, it is obviously a common injury for tennis players and one that requires assistance regardless of how it came about.

So a little bit about tennis elbow, if you have it, you may experience pain when performing gripping tasks or when bending the wrist or fingers backwards against resistance. Pain can also be present when your forearm muscles are stretched, particularly bending your wrist forwards whilst your elbow is straight out in front of you. There’s also usually tenderness directly over the bony bump on the outside of the elbow, and tender points in the outer forearm muscles. In some cases, you may also experience neck stiffness and tenderness, and possibly also signs of nerve irritation like numbness and tingling.

The cause of tennis elbow is mostly down to repetitive gripping actions meaning it could stem from a number daily activities such as using scissors, cutting meat, carrying grocery bags, gardening, manual work that involves repetitive turning or lifting of the wrist, such as plumbing, bricklaying, and even typing.

In acute cases, which are those with recent onset, this is known as lateral epicondylitis and it’s associated with pain and inflammation at the point of the elbow where the outer forearm tendons attach to the bone, occurring when more force is applied to that area than the normal healthy tissue can handle. This might be from performing an unaccustomed hand heavy activity, such as tennis or DIY, particularly if you spend a long time doing it when you’re not used to that or if you generally have weak forearm muscles, are gripping too hard or have poor technique.

Chronic cases are those that are more long term and don’t involve inflammation but are instead associated with degeneration of the tendon and changes to it’s blood supply and nerve supply.

Unfortunately, rest as a treatment is rarely helpful. If left untreated, tennis elbow can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years and can have a serious affect on your sport, daily activities and work. The good news though is that physical therapy is effective both in acute and chronic tennis elbow, and there are several things you can do to help in recovery and prevention.

Physical or manual therapy can help relieve the pain by releasing the soft tissue tension with massage, stretching the tight muscles and structures and mobilising the joints of the elbow, neck and shoulder to ensure normal function.

Additionally, other treatments that have proven to be effective are the application of ice, ultrasound therapy, taping or the use of a tennis elbow support, dry needling and exercises to strengthen and balance the relevant muscles.

If all this fails then as a last resort a type of surgery called subcutaneous tenotomy can be performed which has a 95% success rate with no consequential reduction in grip strength.

Ultimately though, you need to find the root cause of the issue and prevent tennis elbow from occurring or recurring which unfortunately it has a tendency to do. That’s where the likes of your friendly local osteopath comes in to help.

If we’re being specific to tennis, then modifications to the equipment can help such as:-

  • Use a lighter racket or one with a more flexible shaft
  • Increase the racket grip size
  • Use string vibration dampeners
  • Reduce string tension
  • Increase the racket head size
  • Play with newer balls
  • Don’t play with wet balls
  • And use softer grip material

Aside from tennis, changes to the relevant tools or work equipment can help too. Remember to always increase your work load or tennis time gradually, allowing your muscles time to adapt to the new demand. Finally, make sure you condition your muscles and arm with specific exercises and this will go a long way to playing pain-free tennis or performing whatever job it is that you want or need to do.

That’s it for this week’s bitesize bit to help your health flourish and I’ll see you again next time, bye bye for now.