“There is nothing which brings the surgical profession into greater discredit at the present time than the inability to cure a ‘tennis elbow’. The condition is extremely common, and so helpless have we been in the treatment that most sufferers now never consider consulting a medical man at all!” G. Percival Mills, 1928
One way in which the medical approach to tennis elbow has changed since it was first mentioned in 1882 is that it is no longer called ‘lawn tennis elbow’! Other than this, not much has changed in what the allopathic medic can offer. Indeed, a meta-analysis of 185 papers on how best to treat this condition between 1966 and 1992 was carried out and the authors concluded that there was no evidence to support any single treatment option! Of course, this comes down to academic and scientific postulating and not real individual patient response, but it nonetheless highlights the difficulties with this constant source of pain.
So what is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is one of the most common upper limb conditions, affecting 5 to 7 people per 1000 a year. Funnily enough, most don’t play tennis. One normally has pain on the lateral elbow and it’s made worst by wrist and finger extension and gripping activities. (Typing this doesn’t help!)
Many will have tried analgesia, epicondyle clasps, injections and (hopefully not) surgery, amongst many other modalities.
What do I do to help tennis elbow?
Well, I throw everything in the book at it! I find that acupuncture, dry needling, soft tissue techniques, osteopathic techniques, exercises and taping as well as ergonomic changes all work well. I use everything in my arsenal and the vast majority of my patients get better. There have been one or two that got away, but a formula of “throw everything at it” definitely seems to bring success.
Of course I also always keep on top of the latest research and replenish my techniques with new ones, where they are proven to help.
There is one good thing to say for tennis elbow though: it is easier to treat than golfer’s elbow!
Watch this clip for good tennis elbow exercises: