We’ve all heard of Tennis Elbow, but do you know what’s really happening in there? It’s a condition that can take a long time to resolve, as the connection between muscle and bone becomes inflamed. Your osteopath can help you get past an episode, and can also give you advice to prevent its recurrence.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Repetitive movements, especially those that you don’t normally do, can be a cause. Even movements you are accustomed to can be irritating if you suddenly start doing more, like picking up more racket sport for a week while on holiday. Not all cases are linked to sports though: plenty of other actions can cause the same tightness. Painting walls, particularly more fiddly areas like door frames and skirting boards can do exactly that. These areas need smaller movements that you repeat more. They may also require you to pinch a relatively small handled paintbrush. Larger movements with a roller are less likely to bother the wrist muscles.
Sometimes it’s not about movement, but load. Carrying too many shopping bags for too long can ask a lot of the wrist muscles. Similarly, carrying a heavy pan from the sink to the hob can require the muscles to work too hard to just maintain a neutral position.
At your appointment, your osteopath will look further afield. Sometimes cases develop in response to a problem elsewhere. The original problem may or may not have ever been symptomatic; the brain is good at asking the body to adapt early on. For example, if you lost some movement in your shoulder, your wrist may have been doing more to allow you to reach as far as you normally would. Over time, this could cause irritation that leads to Tennis Elbow.
Whereas Tennis Elbow affects the wrist flexors, Golfer’s Elbow affects the extensors. The symptoms and process are almost identical, except golfer’s elbow will affect the outside of the elbow rather than the inside. Of course, the movements that cause and irritate them are the opposite too.
Not all elbow pain can be blamed on these muscles. Read more about shoulder and elbow pain here.
First Aid for Tennis Elbow
Prevention is better than cure, and recognising the earliest stages can be a chance to nip it in the bud. If you notice that wrist movements are causing an ache just below the elbow, you might want to try a cool compress on the sore area. Some gentle stretches might also take the edge off and buy you some time to get to your osteopath.
If your early symptoms are associated with sport, make sure you are effectively warming up and stretching before and after exercise. You can also check if you are demanding extra of your wrist flexors by using a racket, bat, or club that is too thin. Sometimes just binding the handle with some extra grip tape can help.
In clinic, your osteopath can work through the painful muscles and make sure all the nearby joints are working well. As is so commonly the way, the sooner you address your pain, the better the prognosis.