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Treating tennis elbow with massage

From: The Joy of Touch Therapies,

Treating tennis elbow with massage

As Wimbledon fortnight gets into full swing it got me thinking about a condition called tennis elbow that affects 5 in every 1,000 adults in the UK.

The medical name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. This is because the pain usually occurs on the bony lump on the outside of the elbow, known as the lateral epicondyle. Pain on the inside of the elbow is called golfers elbow. The injury earned its name because it affects tennis players. However the vast majority of people with the condition have never picked up a tennis racquet.

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, near the elbow joint. It can also happen as a result of a single forceful injury. This causes micro tears in the muscles of the forearm. The main symptoms of tennis elbow are pain, tenderness and inflammation on the outside of the elbow. Pain may also travel down to the forearm towards the wrist. The pain can vary form mild discomfort to severe pain. Pain is often worse when using the arm and elbow, particularly during twisting movements.

Causes of tennis elbow

Tennis elbow can occur from doing manual work that involves repetitive turning and lifting of the wrist such as plumbing or bricklaying. It can also occur in people who lift heavy objects. Working in an office, tennis elbow can occur as a result of repetitive fine movements from long periods of typing on a computer. Also playing computer games without taking breaks may contribute to elbow pain. Sports like tennis or squash can also cause tennis elbow. Gardening using shears or scissors can also contribute to elbow pain.

Another cause of pain in the elbow or arm is due to the presence of trigger points. Travell and Simons who spent many years treating and researching trigger point therapy and are considered pioneers in this field, define a trigger point as “a hyper irritable locus within a taut band of skeletal muscle, located in the muscular tissue and or its associated fascia.” The defining symptom of a trigger point is referred pain. Therefore in the case of outer elbow pain there may be trigger points in the extensor muscles of the forearm, the triceps or the supraspinatus muscle found at the top of the shoulders or the supinator or brachioradialis muscles found in the lower forearm. Sorry if I’ve lost you with some of the terminology, in plain English, a trigger point can hurt like hell when pressed and causes pain in an area away from the point that is being pressed.

Preventing tennis elbow

Some possible measures to prevent tennis elbow from developing include:

• Taking regular breaks when using a computer for typing or playing computer games.

• Before playing a sport that involves repetitive arm movements, such as tennis or squash, warm up beforehand and gently stretch your arm muscles to help you avoid injury.

• To avoid putting excess strain on your tendons when playing these sports, use lightweight tools or racquets, and enlarge their grip size.

• Treatment options for tennis elbow.

• Tennis elbow is most often treated with rest from the offending activity and anti-inflammatory measures. Anti-inflammatory measures may include ice applications and medications in the form of pills, cream or gels. As a last resort in some cases steroid injections or surgery may be needed.

Treating tennis elbow with massage

Massage treatments with an appropriately trained therapist can be beneficial for treating tennis elbow. A combination of techniques is effective in treating the condition; it can help reduce pain and improve the range of motion of the arm. Cold stones or ice packs can reduce inflammation around the elbow area. If the condition is chronic then heat can be used to warm and loosen the muscle.

Locating and treating trigger points that are referring pain to the elbow is an effective way of reducing the pain. Massaging all the muscles around the joint with focus on the lower arm will help to alleviate muscle tension and stretching all the associated muscles will improve the range of movement of the arm. For self-care between treatments, clients can be shown how to work on their trigger points and do some stretching exercises. To effectively treat the condition a number of massage sessions or a trip to a physiotherapist may be necessary.

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Hello, my name is Grace and I run my complementary therapy business, Natural Grace Therapies in South London. I offer a range of treatments including massage, aromatherapy and reflexology. With my blog I hope to share with you the benefits of various complementary treatments and anything else health related that catches my eye.

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