What is tennis elbow or golfer's elbow?
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Did you know that you can still get tennis elbow even if you’ve never played tennis? In principle, tennis elbow or golfer's elbow can start from any activity in which the hand has to grip permanently with the elbow bent. These movements can overload the extensor tendons at the elbow. This then results in inflammation and pain.
These days, tennis elbow also occurs in people who often sit in front of a computer and work with a mouse. In tennis, it usually affects players with bad technique or athletes who simply try too hard. It also affects those whose jobs feature the types of motions that can lead to tennis elbow including plumbers, painters, landscapers, carpenters and butchers.
Signs and symptoms
The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow. Pain can also spread into your forearm and wrist. In general, the affected elbow only hurts when it is moved, for example, when gripping and lifting. The strength in the hand and fingers can decrease and it becomes more difficult to carry heavy objects. The muscles in the forearm are often very tense. A ‘pins and needle’ sensation may develop in parallel. A doctor will make his diagnosis on the basis of a simple physical examination. He will ask the patient to extend his/her wrist and to turn the arm at the elbow against resistance. If the pain worsens, this is a sign of tennis elbow.
Risk factors and causes
Important: the cause is not at the elbow itself, but in the muscles of the hand and fingers. If these are chronically overworked or used incorrectly, tennis elbow can develop. This incorrect use or overwork typically occurs for those using a mouse with a computer. But renovation or plastering work, shelving maintenance, mowing the lawn or trimming the hedge, can put a strain on the muscles of the hand and thus on the elbow joint itself. Occupational groups such as plumbers or mechanics are also often affected.
- Use the right techniques when playing tennis and, if necessary, invest in a few coaching sessions.
- In an office environment, cushioned mouse pads and ergonomically designed mice help the wrist. Also advisable: learn the shortcuts that can be entered using the keyboard.
- Buy a powered screwdriver if you often assemble new furniture.
- Lift objects up in such a way that the palms of the hand face your body.
- And last but not least: watch out for signs of overwork and take a break in good time.