This month of August is Tradie Month where we encourage all our valued tradies to spend some time looking after the most important tool they have – their health and well being.
Tennis elbow or lateral elbow pain is one of the most common work-related injuries we see in the clinic. Specifically, we see this in workers who use their hands to grip tools repeatedly during the day. The history is almost always one of a gradual onset of pain in the elbow which over time spreads into the forearm while preforming gripping tasks.
What can I do?
Tendon pain occurs when the tendon is unable to deal with the work you are asking it to do. The saying “if you don’t use it you lose it” could have first been uttered with the tendon solely in mind. If the goal is to return to pre-injury activities then strengthening exercises are a must. Prolonged rest only leads to further deterioration of the tendon’s ability to take load and the pain will return as soon as you return to your aggravating tasks.
Use it or lose it!
Exercise? Is that all?
There are countless things that can potentially make your tendon feel better initially without actually getting you better. A quick google search will confirm there are many reported “quick fixes” and “cures”. Electrotherapy, ice, ultrasound, acupuncture, injections may all offer some short-term relief but none address the tendons' ability to take load.
All the evidence points to the best approach being an initial decrease in loading (not complete rest) followed by a graduated loading / strengthening exercise program. You need to decrease the loading to a level you can comfortably cope with before gradually increasing your strength.
An analysis and change of your technique i.e. how you grip your tool and consideration of whether the tool you use is the best one for you, can also provide some immediate ease in symptoms.
Don’t ignore your pain. Pain is the tendon’s way of saying it is not dealing with the current workload. If you ignore the pain and soldier through you run the risk of increasing your pain and lengthening your recovery period.
Do your exercises.
It is hard to believe when you have chronic pain in your elbow that something as simple as exercise has been shown to be the best treatment to decrease you pain and return you to your previous work. There are no short cuts. Increasing the strength of your tendon and gradually building up its capacity takes time (up to 3 months, sometimes longer.)
If you have been experiencing some lateral elbow pain and are looking for ways to regain your strength come and chat to one of our experienced physiotherapists.