Often individuals experiencing pain at the outside of their elbow are diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow. This sometimes can be a misnomer because tennis players are not the only people who can develop this type of injury. The outside of your elbow serves as a point of origin for several muscles that control movement at your forearm, wrist, and hand.
The motion that these muscles often produce is backward bending of the wrist and gripping and with activities that cause overuse use of these motions, pain can be produced at the outside of the elbow along with tenderness to the touch. This pain typically gets worse over time and will cause an individual to begin avoiding specific motions and activities that cause their pain.
Physical therapists are able to help with this type of injury by identifying the source of the pain, strategies to relieve the pain, and ways to influence healing to the area where there may be damage to the muscles. Physical therapists are able to develop an exercise program that will help decrease the symptoms an individual is experiencing at the outside of their elbow. Initial treatment will focus on ways to rest the muscles that begin at the outside of your elbow and strategies that will help decrease the stress on these muscles when you do use them. Physical therapists are able to help with this by using different taping techniques to relieve any pain or swelling or suggesting the purchase of a strap or band that is placed around the forearm to decrease the stress on the muscles. Avoiding bringing your wrist backwards or gripping over a period of time may cause these muscles to become weak due to them not being used. Once the pain and swelling begins to decrease, physical therapists will prescribe stretching, to increase flexibility of the muscles, and strengthening techniques that will primarily focus on increasing strength of these muscles as they lengthen. Physical therapists are also educated in massage techniques that may be uncomfortable at times to the patient but are helpful in breaking up any swelling and/or muscle tightness. Physical therapy will help educate you on ways to make adjustments to avoid causing this injury again. This education may focus on making changes to the environment that may cause this repetitive motion such as at your work or home setting and ways to incorporate breaks and stretching to avoid overusing those muscles. Ultimately, the goal for individuals suffering from this injury is to return to activities that incorporate these muscles and ways to avoid injuring them again in the future.
For more information on physical therapy services visit Total Performance Physical Therapy.