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Tennis elbow results from damage to the extensor tendons (the tendon of the muscles that extend the wrist). This can cause acute elbow pain and tightness, especially when gripping or lifting. Chiropractic is a highly effective treatment for both tennis elbow relief and prevention.
What does chiropractic for tennis elbow involve?
Effective treatment for tennis elbow must not only treat the injured tendons but also (and perhaps most importantly) address the underlying cause(s) of tendon damage.
In the case of tennis elbow there are 3 common underlying causes:
- Faulty movement patterns. Faulty or compensated movement and stabilisation can lead to greater strain on the extensor tendons of the elbow, which over time can lead to breakdown and injury.
- Overuse. Despite the name, this overuse does not have to come from specifically playing tennis. Any activity requiring repetitive gripping or lifting can predispose to tennis elbow.
- Nutrition. Pro-inflammatory diets (those high in simple sugars and refined oils and low in fruit and vegetables) reduce tendon resilience. Deficiencies in certain nutrients important for tendon healing also predispose to injury.
Example of poor stabilisation
Below you can see a ‘poor’ pattern of trunk and upper quarter stabilisation – sagging of the lower back, jutting of the chin and shrugging of shoulders (red arrows). This pattern will lead to increased strain of the superficial muscles predisposing to injury, including tennis elbow.
Compare this to the image below. Here you can see balanced muscle activation. This pattern will translate to good static posture and a lower risk of injury.
A thorough physical examination can identify asymmetries, weakness and restriction leading to compensated stabilisation and tendon overload. Chiropractic treatment can then address both the local tendon injury and the underlying dysfunctions causing increased tendon strain.
Treating the underlying cause and not just the area that hurts is a big factor in the success of chiropractic treatment for tennis elbow.
Chiropractic for tennis elbow relief
Restricted elbow joints can irritate the extensor muscles exacerbating tennis elbow. Chiropractic manipulation is a very effective approach to restore proper movement to the joints and to reduce local pain. Manipulation can also be used to restore movement and function to joints away from the site of pain to help unload painful areas. In tennis elbow for example, the shoulder and joints of the thoracic spine (mid-back) are often restricted and also need to be addressed.
Triggers points or ‘knots’ within the wrist extensor muscles can increase the pull and strain of the tendon, exacerbating tennis elbow pain. A variety of soft tissue approaches such as active release, trigger point therapy or ischaemic compression can be used to treat these muscles to relieve tennis elbow.
Dry needling is a therapeutic technique using an acupuncture needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate the underlying tissue. Dry needling is very effective at treating deep trigger points within the extensor muscles as well as the tendon itself.
Stretches and mobilisation exercises can be used to relieve pain and promote healing in the early stages of treatment. Later, exercise can be progressed to improve strength, mobility and muscle balance to correct underlying dysfunction and aid in full recovery and prevention.
Is chiropractic for tennis elbow safe?
Yes. Chiropractic is widely recognised as one of the safest, drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of nerve, muscle and joint complaints. Most patients experience immediate relief following chiropractic for tennis elbow however, some may experience mild soreness, stiffness or aching, just as they might after exercise. Current research shows that this discomfort typically fades within 24 hours.
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‘Chiropractic for Tennis Elbow Relief’ was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more infomation about Steffen click here.