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Tennis Elbow

With Andy Murray about to defend his US open title following on from his fantastic success at Wimbledon, Tennis is back at the top of the sporting pile again.

Tennis elbow has always been an injury which has interested me for a number of reasons, not least the fact that most people I have seen with it have never picked up a tennis racket in their life. Amusingly those tennis players who have actually had tennis elbow have almost ‘worn it as a badge of honour’; they must be playing really hard or really often to achieve such an iconic injury!

To give Tennis Elbow its more scientific sounding name also serves to confuse and often compound this injury to becoming a chronic issue. Often referred to as Lateral Epicondylitis due to its relationship with the lateral part of the elbow the suffix ‘itis’ is the issue.  This refers to an inflammation and unless your tennis elbow has come on suddenly after a particularly long or hard session on court it is unlikely that you have an it is! If it has been lurking and creeping up it is likely that you actually have an ‘osis’ or an ‘opathy’ which relate more to degeneration.

This then has a massive impact on how to treat and the overall prognosis. It remains a very divisive area and endless studies and literature reviews still don’t reach a generally accepted consensus as to preferred management. Personally I discourage people from seeking steroid injection for a number of reasons (which I am happy to discuss but I have a word limit!) and encourage a variety of conservative treatments. Although long term-benefits of Physio also look sketchy in the literature in my experience most patents do well and very few end up seeking surgery (which also often has a poor long-term outcome).

There are some positive studies for what is termed the eccentric loading/training programme. As ever prevention is better than cure and considering technique, handle grip, stretching and hand use in everyday life all can make a difference. But just because it is called Tennis elbow doesn’t mean that tennis is always to blame.

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