Can I get tennis elbow if I don’t play tennis? – Ask a Physiotherapist!

Yes- tennis elbow can occur even if you don’t play tennis. Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis are both terms that refer to pain or tenderness on the outside of the elbow. It is often chronic and is a result of repetitive use and strain on the tendons that attach in that area.Tennis is one way you can develop such a condition, but other daily activities coupled with poor form or weakness can also lead to the development of tennis elbow.

First, one must understand the basic anatomy of the elbow. The elbow is comprised of three bones- the humerus (upper arm bone), radius and ulna. These bones are stabilized and held together by ligaments, muscles and tendons. Ligaments connect bones to bones, tendons attach muscles to bone. Muscles contract to perform an action. All three work together to stabilize the elbow during movement and while handling loads.
The muscles that extend your wrist are on the back side of your forearm and attach to the bump on the outside of your elbow- your lateral epicondyle. Whenever you extend your wrist these muscle contract to achieve the movement. Any repetitive action of wrist extension, such as a tennis stroke, can cause the wrist extensor tendons to be overworked. Worse, repetitive action coupled with poor technique increases your risk even further of developing tennis elbow. The excess strain and load on the tendons produces pain and tenderness over the lateral epicondyle because that is where they attach. Tennis elbow is the result of the degenerative changes which occur in the muscle as a result of over exertion or over use.
Now, it isn’t just tennis that can cause such an injury. Other popular activities that predispose you to tennis elbow include, painting, excessive computer mouse use, using a keyboard that is sitting higher than your wrists, or the use of tools such as screw drivers and hammers.
So, what to do if you start suffering from tennis elbow?
–   begin a stretching program for your wrist extensors
–   ice the area after activity
–   begin a gentle strengthening program from your wrist extensors
–   have an ergonomic assessment to identify any issues with your office set up
–   Receive physiotherapy treatment
Tennis elbow is a very common condition that often turns into a chronic injury if not treated and managed early. Prevention such as stretching and strengthening the wrist extensors may delay or prevent the degenerative changes in the tendons from occuring.
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