Our Ottawa physiotherapists, chiropractors, and other sports medicine specialists have treated many patients for a condition called tennis elbow. Despite the nickname, however, it's estimated that only about 5 percent of all cases actually result from playing sports. Here are five major causes and risk factors that might lead to tennis elbow – or lateral epicondylitis.
1. Repetitive Motions
Tennis elbow is an injury, one that is the result of repeated motions that wear on the main tendon in the elbow which connects the bone to the extensor muscle. Earlier generations called the condition writer’s cramp and washer woman’s elbow, which points at the cause. Repeated motions which place too much strain on the elbow or overextend the arm can cause it.
Occupations, activities, and hobbies are often behind those repetitive motions. These can include:
2. Overusing The Forearm Muscles
Perhaps you’ve gotten a new job, or taken up a new hobby that involves the forearm muscles, and you’ve developed pain where you never experienced it before. The muscles of the forearm pull the wrist back and away form the palm. If those muscles are overused, as they are in certain activities, small tears can develop in the tendons, which become inflamed. Where overuse is the cause, a simple prescription of rest may be the only treatment required in some cases. Your Ottawa physiotherapist, chiropractor, or other sports medicine specialist can advise you what treatment is right for your specific needs.
3. Age Is A Risk Factor
From statistics on tennis players, we know that age doesn’t necessarily affect whether or not you will contract tennis elbow, it does affect the severity. Twice as many players over the age of 50 experienced a significant disability as a result of tennis elbow. Recent research points to why age may be a factor. As we age, our tissues degenerate, and our ability to repair tissues diminishes. That means that, as the repeated action occurs, the body can no longer repair itself before more damage takes place.
4. Chronic Stress
The way that tennis elbow develops may be more complex in some cases than simple overuse. Where there is chronic stress on the forearm muscle, it may weaken and become even less able to support the wrist and hand adequately. This, in turn, adds more stress on the tendon, causing a cascading level of damage to the soft tissues.
In addition to physical stress, tennis elbow has been linked in one study to psychological stress, including symptoms of depression and anxiety.
5. It’s Not Only Tennis
Naturally, tennis and racquet sports which involve a swinging motion put you at risk for overuse and/or repetitive strain of the forearm muscle and tendon – particularly if your form is poor while performing a backhand stroke. Other sports that inherently involve the forearm muscle include baseball, golf, cricket, weightlifting, boxing, archery, martial arts, and bowling.
Proper form can go a long way towards minimizing your risk of developing tennis elbow. Ask your Ottawa physiotherapy and sports medicine specialist for advice on how you can minimize your risk of developing this painful condition. Call or drop by one of our Ottawa area physiotherapy clinics today.