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Elbow pain

Elbow pain can be extremely debilitating and can affect any one of us regardless of whether you lift heavy machinery or  sit in an office all day! Its comes in several  forms and can have a number of different causes. Here are the most common types of elbow pain:

1) Tennis Elbow (lateral Epicondylalgia)

Tennis elbow is one of the more common forms of elbow pain and relates to pain on the outside of the elbow, often extending down into the forearm. Tennis elbow is caused by overuse and or trauma to the common extensor tendon on the outer elbow. This tendon attaches the wrist extensors (muscles that extend your wrist) to the elbow allowing you to actively lift your palm and fingers up into the air.

NB- You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow 🙂


There has been a lot of hype (in the medical world) as to whether a tendon swells or not when it is damaged and although there are signs of inflammation (mainly in the early stages of injury) most treatments do not focus on this and look more at the chronic nature of the injury and liken tennis elbow to the fraying of a rope (tendon degeneration)- WHY is this important?- This relates to how we manage the problem and is the reason why rest and ice are generally speaking not going to be effective for tennis elbow. Although rest and ice is useful for symptom management, the tendon will only repair when exposed to gradually increasing load (controlled!). This is where Physio comes in!- Loading of any tendon needs to be done in controlled stages… Too soon back to sport or lifting heavy objects etc will overload the tendon (and this is probably how it came about in the first place!) and too little will not encourage tendon regeneration.

2) Golfers Elbow (Medial Epicondylalgia)

Medial refers to the inside of the elbow so golfers elbow is essentially the same as tennis elbow but on the other side of the elbow. Although the tendon pathology is fundamentally the same in both cases, the action of the muscles that attach to the tendons is very different. The medial tendon attaches the wrist and finger flexors (gripping muscles)  and not the extensors (tennis elbow) so management of this problem involves the opposite exercises (in the most part). I say in the most part because there will be some similarities when it comes to the treatment of tennis and golfers elbow due to the interaction between these problems and the nervous system as I will explain…………..

3) Nerve Entrapment/Irritation

People often mistake elbow pain for tennis or golfers elbow purely due to the location of pain, however this is often not the case. Without nerves we would have nothing (movement, sensation and life for that matter!) and when nerves become irritated, inflamed, compressed they either elicit pain along the path of the nerve or if trapped, negative symptoms such as numbness/weakness. So elbow pain may be a referral from a nerve in your neck, in which case treating the elbow in isolation is unlikely to help you. This is why I say that treatment for golfers and tennis elbow are different but can be linked when we need to treat the neck.

There are other possible causes of elbow pain including ligament sprain and other more obscure things so it is always best to consult us before trying any self treatment as not to aggravate the issue.

For information of elbow pain or if you think you would benefit from a quick telephone consultation please do call us on 01799530650 or 07399499959. Alternatively you can email us on

Reform is a clinic based just outside of Saffron Walden

We have ample parking outside the front door.

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