Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common injury for athletes and non-athletes alike. This painful condition involves inflammation of the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the bony area on the outside of your elbow.
If you’re suffering from tennis elbow, you may be wondering – can osteopathy really help? This comprehensive guide explains how osteopathic treatment can effectively relieve tennis elbow pain and support lasting recovery.
Understanding Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is characterized by pain and tenderness focused on the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. This outer bony area is where the forearm extensor muscles that move your wrist and fingers originate.
Repetitive gripping motions and activities that require extending your wrist against resistance can strain the tendons that attach to this area. Microtears and inflammation in the tendon tissue cause the characteristic tennis elbow pain.
While the name suggests a link to racquet sports like tennis, the truth is tennis elbow can stem from various activities and hobbies. Anything that overworks the forearm muscles can contribute to tennis elbow, such as:
- Racket sports – tennis, badminton, squash
- Manual jobs – construction, painting, carpentry
- Office work – repetitive typing and mouse use
- Fitness – weightlifting, calisthenics like pushups
- Music – playing guitar, violin, drums
- Hobbies – knitting, sewing, golf
Tennis elbow can also occur suddenly after an awkward arm or elbow movement. Existing problems in the wrist, shoulder or neck can increase susceptibility as well.
Recognising Tennis Elbow Symptoms
Typical symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Pain or burning sensation on the outer side of your elbow that may radiate down your forearm
- Tenderness to touch on the outside of your elbow joint
- Weakened grip strength
- Stiffness, soreness or pain when moving your elbow and wrist
- Difficulty grasping items like tools, mugs or door handles
- Increased elbow pain when stretching your forearm muscles
- Worsening pain when resuming activities after rest
See your doctor promptly if elbow pain persists for over 2 weeks and impacts your daily function. Getting an accurate diagnosis is key before attempting treatment.
How Can Osteopathy Help Tennis Elbow?
Osteopathy takes a whole-body approach to treating injuries like tennis elbow. Your osteopath will assess dysfunction and imbalances throughout your musculoskeletal system that could be contributing to your elbow pain.
Using gentle hands-on techniques, your osteopath can address limitations in joints, muscles and connective tissues to help relieve symptoms. Common osteopathic approaches include:
Gentle massage of the forearm muscles helps relax tightness and tension. Massage boosts circulation to deliver healing nutrients to damaged tendons.
Subtle manipulations can mobilize stiffness in the elbow joint and loosen muscles around the upper arm, shoulder, wrist and neck. This alleviates mechanical stress on the injured elbow.
Prescribed stretches improve flexibility and function of the forearm muscles, tendons and elbow joint.
Specific strengthening exercises can rebuild wasted forearm muscles. Aerobic exercise improves blood flow to help repair damaged tendon tissue.
Analyzing posture can identify problems like shoulder hunching that overload the elbow. Postural correction advice is provided.
Your osteopath can suggest technique adjustments for sports, hobbies or work duties to prevent re-injury.
Support braces may be recommended to rest the elbow during recovery.
This multifaceted osteopathic approach aims to resolve the root cause of elbow pain for lasting relief. It also helps prevent future recurrence of tennis elbow.
3 Key Exercises To Aid Tennis Elbow Recovery
Performing rehab exercises at home along with osteopathic care can help speed up recovery from tennis elbow. Here are 3 important exercises to include in your regimen:
1. Wrist Flexor Stretch
This gentle stretch targets tight wrist flexor muscles implicated in tennis elbow:
- Stand facing a wall, affected arm extended forward with palm facing wall and fingers pointing up
- Press palm and fingers into wall, keeping elbow straight
- Lean body weight forward until mild stretch is felt in forearm
- Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times
2. Wrist Extensor Strengthening
This exercise strengthens weak wrist extensors strained in tennis elbow:
- Sit at table with affected elbow down, arm hanging off table edge
- Hold light weight vertically with palm facing down
- Slowly bend wrist up and down, lifting and lowering the weight
- Do 3 sets of 10 reps, progressing weight as able
3. Forearm Stretch And Strengthening
This combo move stretches flexors while strengthening extensors:
- Hold exercise band in both hands with elbows bent 90 degrees at your sides, palms together
- Twist palms down to extend wrists, stretching flexors
- Return to start and twist palms up to flex wrists, working extensors
- Do 2 sets of 15 reps, increase band tension over time
Avoid any painful movements and stop exercises if they aggravate your elbow.
Can Osteopathy Really Help Tennis Elbow Recovery?
Research indicates that osteopathic care can be highly effective for managing tennis elbow:
- One study found osteopathy provided significant, long-term reductions in tennis elbow pain. Improvements were seen in strength and function. (1)
- Another study showed osteopathy and exercises resolved symptoms better than wait-and-see approaches or placebo ultrasound. (2)
- Multiple trials demonstrate that osteopathic techniques like massage and joint mobilization effectively reduce elbow pain and improve range of motion. (3)
By addressing whole-body function and training proper biomechanics, osteopathy supports complete recovery and helps prevent future elbow problems. When combined with rehab exercises, osteopathic treatment offers a safe, drug-free solution for tennis elbow relief.
Optimizing Your Tennis Elbow Recovery
Use these tips together with osteopathy to achieve the best tennis elbow recovery results:
- Get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor to rule out other conditions first
- Rest your affected elbow fully from painful activities for 2-4 weeks
- Apply ice packs for 15 minutes several times daily to control pain and inflammation
- See an osteopath for specialized treatment to resolve dysfunction and spur healing
- Wear an elbow brace during activities to support your joint
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication if recommended by your doctor
- Do rehab exercises daily to rebuild strength and flexibility
- Modify your sport, hobby or work activities by using proper technique, taking breaks and limiting effort
- Be patient – torn tendons take 4-6 months to fully repair
- Get follow-up osteopathic care during recovery to prevent reinjury
Don’t let tennis elbow sideline you from daily life or physical activities. Get relief from this painful condition by partnering with an experienced osteopath today.