Port Moody RMT

Massage Therapy for People with Elbow Pain

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition affecting the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. Despite its name, it's not limited to tennis players; it can develop from repetitive gripping, twisting motions or overuse of the forearm and elbow, leading to small tears in the tendons. This results in pain, tenderness, and limited motion in the affected arm, particularly when gripping or lifting objects.

Signs & Symptoms: How to Know if you have a Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow typically presents with notable discomfort, extending from the elbow to the wrists, accompanied by pain and a sense of weakness during elbow movement, particularly in gripping objects. Common symptoms include tenderness along the exterior of the elbow, persistent aching, morning stiffness, soreness in the forearm muscles, difficulty in gripping or lifting objects, as well as discomfort when bending the wrists or straightening the elbows. Additionally, raising the hands or straightening the wrists may induce pain.

Elbow pain - tennis elbow and the structure of the elbow

What are the Main Causes?

The development of tennis elbow is often associated with engaging in activities that repetitively strain the wrists and heavily engage forearm muscles. Such activities encompass a diverse range, including racket sports like tennis, badminton, or squash, as well as sports like javelin or discus throw, fencing, and weightlifting. Beyond sports, professions such as gardening, painting, plumbing, carpentry, typing, and even hobbies like knitting can contribute to this condition. It's important to note that while sports are common culprits, tennis elbow can also arise from repetitive wrist twisting or significant use of forearm muscles in various non-sporting activities.

What are the risk factors?

Several risk factors contribute to the development of tennis elbow:

  • Age plays a role, with the condition more frequently affecting adults between 30 to 50 years old, although it can occur across different age groups.
  • Certain occupations involving repetitive use of the wrists and arms, such as painting, plumbing, carpentry, and professions like butchery, heighten the risk of developing this condition.
  • Participation in specific sports, notably racket sports such as tennis and badminton, can increase the likelihood of tennis elbow, particularly among players with inadequate technique.
Tennis Elbow RMT Massage

How Massage Therapy can Help with Tennis Elbow?

Experiencing tennis elbow can be quite disruptive as it often has a tendency to recur. The recovery period can span from six months to two years, prompting a search for relief. Exploring treatment options, massage therapy emerges as a promising approach in addressing this condition.

Massage therapy offers several benefits, including the reduction of swelling, enhanced circulation, and increased mobility in the affected area. Through the application of friction during the massage, there's stimulation of collagen production within the damaged tendon area. This process accelerates healing, offering a faster recovery compared to merely resting the affected area.

Studies Show that Deep Tissue Massage is Effective in Treating Tennis Elbow

In a rigorous randomized clinical trial, the efficacy of deep friction massage was compared with steroid injections for the treatment of tennis elbow. Patients were allocated into three groups: one receiving splinting and stretching (group 1), another with a cortisone injection (group 2), and the third receiving a lidocaine injection combined with deep friction massage (group 3). The six-month follow-up revealed significant improvements in the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) pain score, Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) score, and grip strength for patients who underwent deep friction massage.

The findings underscore the effectiveness of deep friction massage in treating tennis elbow, particularly for individuals who did not experience success with other nonoperative treatments, such as cortisone injections. This study suggests that deep tissue massage proves to be a more effective and expedient method for healing compared to rest or the use of steroid injections. (Yi, R., et al., 2018)

Deep Tissue Massage and Friction Therapy Combination to Treat Tennis Elbow

Utilizing deep tissue massage offers a twofold benefit by promoting enhanced circulation and employing friction therapy to alleviate tension within the tendons. This technique effectively breaks down scar tissue, easing pain, reducing muscle spasms, and enhancing overall flexibility.

However, in the case of a tennis elbow stemming from an injury, it's crucial to avoid massage therapy for at least 48 hours post-injury to prevent potential exacerbation of the condition. Additionally, it's vital to steer clear of reinjury during the course of treatment, as the affected tendons remain vulnerable during the healing process.