By Dr. Gustavo Reque Rydberg, Medical Osteopathic Medicine & General Practitioner at HealthBay Orthopaedic and Physiotherapy Centre 

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common pain of the elbow that is often disregarded as a minor issue that will eventually resolve spontaneously.  A common misconception is that “tennis elbow” only affects those who play tennis. In fact, it can affect anyone, especially those who engage in new activities that imply carrying weights or are trying new exercise routines.  Carrying a young child, trying a new bicycle, boot camp exercises with kettle bells, etc… can all aggravate the common extensor tendons of the forearm to the point that they generate painful to wear and tear of the tendon attachment at the elbow.

Tennis elbow usually starts hurting as a result of “tendon overload” due to excessive tension on the tendon where it attaches to the bone. As a result, the attachment point becomes swollen and tender to touch. If untreated this small tendon can become so tender and damaged that it can dramatically reduce grip strength to the point that the affected person is unable to shake hands properly or carry objects comfortably.

Appropriate diagnosis and assessment are required to make certain that the tendon attachment swelling is treated properly but also the mechanical dysfunction that is, in essence, the real cause of the problem.  Some are surprised to discover that the tendon problem of the elbow is in fact due to weakness and instability of the shoulder!

Ultrasound assessment of the tendon will certainly provide relevant information in order to personalize the treatment plan. Normal tendon wear and tear, partial tears, full tears, calcific deposit, etc.,  all can be revealed with ultrasound and therefore modify the treatment plan.

Fortunately, if treated properly, tennis elbow responds well to therapies and does not have to stop us from enjoying our leisure activities.

Dr. Gustavo has over 15 years of experience in musculoskeletal and Sports Medicine. If you need an expert opinion about pain management in sports medicine, make an appointment by calling Orthopaedic and Physiotherapy Centre on 04 341 4608.