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What is tennis elbow / golfers elbow?
Tennis elbow and golfers elbow are caused by damage of specific tendons in the forearm. Golfers elbow affects the flexor tendon (the tendon of the muscles that flex the wrist) whilst tennis elbow affects the extensor tendon (the tendon of the muscles that extend the wrist.)
The main symptoms of both golfers and tennis elbow is acute elbow pain and tightness when gripping or lifting. In golfers elbow the pain occurs on the inside of the elbow, in tennis elbow the pain is on the outer aspect. In more severe cases patients may also have elbow pain at rest.
Tendon damage in both tennis elbow and golfers elbow is largely a result of chronic tendon strain and overload. This occurs for 2 primary reasons:
- Overuse. Despite the names, this overuse does not have to come from specifically playing golf or tennis. Any activity requiring repetitive gripping or lifting can predispose to tennis or golfers elbow.
- Faulty movement patterns. Faulty or compensated movement can lead to greater strain on the tendons of the elbow.
Other factors, such as nutrition, have also been shown to play a role in tendon injuries. Pro-inflammatory diets (those high in simple sugars and refined oils and low in fruit and vegetables) reduce tendon resilience.
There is a range of manual treatments that are beneficial for treating the local tendon injury in golfers or tennis elbow. These include techniques such as dry needling, deep tissue massage and instrument assisted soft tissue release.
However, for long-standing relief, any underlying factors must also be addressed. Commonly, movement dysfunction is the root cause of chronic tendon strain. By addressing dysfunctional movement, strain on the tendon can be reduced and pain improved.
Introducing nutrients that are important for connective tissue and muscle repair (such as protein, vitamins C and D and magnesium) in the form of foods or supplements is also vital for long term tendon health.
Other causes of elbow pain
Pain in the arm is not always a result of an arm problem. Dysfunctional muscles, joints or nerves in the neck and shoulder often cause referred pain in the arm and hand.
Referred pain can mimic various local arm injuries and, in many cases, it is difficult for the patient to know where the pain is actually coming from. A thorough examination is therefore essential so that the true origin of pain can be established and effectively addressed.
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