Since the 1990s, office workers have been troubled by repetitive strain injuries as more and more people used computers and now they are also outside of work for gaming and internet activities. In the two thousand and teens the new scourge seems to be emerging as Tennis Elbow which may now need to be known as “Tablet Elbow” or “Self-held electronic device elbow”.
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis to give it its medical name, is inflammation on the lateral or outside point of elbow at the insertion of tendons of the Extensor carpi radialis muscle.
This muscle is responsible for extending, or taking the wrist back, and turning the hand outwards when the palm is facing upwards. When we hold a digital device to look at its screen we employ these muscles and then we rely on it stabilising everything so we can type or push buttons on the device. Given how much time we and spend playing games and texting etcetera, is it any wonder that the muscle belly gets tight and then starts to pull on the tendon insertion causing pain and tenderness, and in some cases swelling.
- Pain on the outside of the elbow.
- Pain from gripping, lifting and twisting the forearm.
- Morning stiffness
Some of my learned medical colleagues maintain that “tennis elbow, once got, never recovers”, but as osteopaths we regularly see people recovering from this condition. Firstly we need to identify that the extensor carpi radialis is the only muscle involved. Frequently people do not recover because they have other muscles involved or because there is a problem with the elbow, wrist, shoulder or neck joints. We need to identify why the person has the problem and try to alter the way they are using the device, as well as encourage their own body to have the best healing conditions.
- Treat the muscles and joints that do not function properly.
- Wear a device to give the tendon insertion a rest. A tubi grip worn in the correct way is the best solution, so ask your osteopath at Kendal House Clinic to show you.
- Reduce the inflammation by the use of ice and appropriate anti-inflammatory.
- There are some exercises you can do to stretch the muscle; again, ask your osteopath to show you.
- Do not give up easily; if you do everything correctly, it may take three months to heal. You will not need to have treatment all this time, because once you are doing all the right things, you can sort out your own treatment programme and your osteopath will just be there when you need them.