Finally! We see the birds flying. We feel the sun shining. We feel that intrinsic itch to get out side and partake in the excitement. Whether it’s digging with a hoe in the garden, pushing the lawn mower across the lawn or even taking out the glove to throw the baseball around - the season that is upon us can spring more than just the plants into action!
As the weather improves, we all tend to spend more time using our shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. It is for this reason that we see an increase in patient’s presenting with pain in their elbows. An increase in elbow pain is commonly associated with an increase in load. Load refers to how much you are asking of your muscles, tendons, and joints to tolerate. This increase in load can occur because of asking “too much”, “too soon”, or “too quick” – ie going from no digging over winter to attempting to plant a whole garden.
The most common type of elbow pain is called “lateral epicondylopathy” or more commonly known as “tennis elbow”. It effects around 3% of the adult population and is most prevalent in people aged between 35-55 years. Lateral epicondylopathy is an acute and/or chronic injury to the tendon(s) around your elbow. Tendons are the intermediate structure that attach our muscles to our bones. And in the case of these tendons, an injury can happen when we are extending (reaching backwards) and twist the wrist, hand and fingers. Pain can be felt on the outside of the elbow and often also down into the forearm.
So is it only tennis that results in this symptom experience? Absolutely not! Lateral epicondylopathy can be a result of any over load to the wrist and hand. This can occur from activities such as digging, tilling, hammering, hedge trimming and even folding washing. All these activities include repetitive gripping and twisting based motions at the wrist and hand, utilizing the muscles and the tendons that attach to the elbow!
However the outside or lateral elbow is not the only place where a tendon can be bothered around the elbow. Pain that is located on the inside of the elbow is commonly medial epicondylopathy or “golfer’s elbow”. Whilst not as common as it’s neighbour across the street, it effects 1% of the population. But like it’s neighbour, it too can be caused by activities more than just it’s namesake. Medial epicondylopathy can happen when activities involve a large degree of wrist flexion (bending inwards of the wrist) and gripping.
But just a minute. Elbow “over use” pain isn’t always as it seems and may not be related directly to the elbow. Pain that is felt in the elbow can be a result of a shoulder, neck, or nerve based condition. That is why when considering the complex set of variables related to elbow pain, it is important to consider booking an appointment with a physiotherapist.
A physiotherapist will assess each person individually. This helps ensure the accurate treatment of the specific structure and/or region and contributing variables. And while the exact plan may be variable, a physiotherapy intervention will most likely include specific exercises, some manual therapy and soft tissue work, education around load management, and additional modalities as indicated (taping, electrical stimulation, acupuncture).
Please feel free to call our office at 1-204-325-8555 or submit your contact information on our website to book your appointment today.