Emma Green, PT
What is Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?
The term tennis elbow is a layman's term. The medical term for the same problem is lateral epicondylitis. So lateral epicondylitis and tennis elbow are the same thing.
It's a problem with a tendon and so we have to backtrack a little bit to learn, what is a tendon? A tendon is a connective tissue. A tendon attaches muscles to bones. When muscles contract, they move the bones, with a tendon attaching the muscle to the bone to allow that to happen.
The specific tendon that we're talking about in tennis elbow is the common extensor tendon, which is found on the bony point on the outside of the elbow. That bony point is called the lateral epicondyle, hence where the term lateral epicondylitis comes from. The tendon attaches to several of the forearm muscles that make the hand come up at the wrist. That is where the tendon is, and that is what it does.
Lateral means on the outside of the elbow. Epicondylitis, the epicondyle is the bony part of the elbow. Itis means inflammation, so inflammation of that part of the elbow. That is true in the first few weeks of the symptoms. Once you get past those first few weeks, once you get past the first few months, there's going to be less and less inflammatory cells there as the body goes through the healing process.
So people will often ask, "Well, why can I be feeling this for years?" Because some people do feel this for years. And the reason for that is that it's changed from an inflammation of that tendon to a degeneration of that tendon.
If we were to do an ultrasound scan of the tendon, a normal tendon should look like a rope. Imagine a rope, all the fibers are going in the same direction, everything's tightly packed together, that's what a normal tendon should look like on an ultrasound scan. Now, with a tendon that has tennis elbow, imagine that rope unraveling. And so the fibers start to come apart, different cells can get in there that shouldn't be there, that's not how it should be. That's a degeneration of the tendon. It's not an inflammation, it's a degeneration.
The tendon structure itself has changed and that is what's causing these prolonged symptoms that people feel over months, and even years, if they don't do the right strategies to reverse that. It's not often we can use the word reverse, but if you have a degenerated tendon, it can reverse and go back to normal. And that's what you want to achieve with tennis elbow. So tennis elbow affects the tendon that attaches the forearm muscles to the elbow.
I'm going to be explaining a little more over the next few weeks and months how you get it, and obviously how you can heal it, and also how you can prevent it. So please look out for more information coming on all of these different topics. And if you have enjoyed this, please feel free to share it with anyone who would benefit from this information. Don't forget to like and bookmark this page and please, if you are suffering from tennis elbow, come and join my free Facebook group where you'll get more hints and tips on how to resolve tennis elbow.
Hope to see you soon.