Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Is tennis elbow just about an inflamed tendon?

Written by Mathieu Rossano   Posted in:Sports Injury   May 16, 2011

Is tennis elbow just about an inflamed tendon?

Occasionally, a patient reminds you not just of what osteopathy can do to reduce pain and improve health, but what is truly distinctive about its outlook and approach.

Liz (not her real name) is a successful personal trainer with a distinguished sports career in kick-boxing and competitive weightlifting at a national level.

Three years ago, she sustained an elbow injury whilst training. She initially tried to power her way through the pain, but rapidly found that the slightest stress – even carrying a mugful of tea – caused sharp, debilitating pain.

Her GP referred her to a local orthopaedic unit which rapidly confirmed his diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow. She was initially referred for physiotherapy, followed by acupuncture. When this initial approach failed to deliver results, she was then given two successive steroid injections, equally unsuccessfully. The next step involved an arthroscopy and “extensor tendon release” surgery, and finally an injection of platelet enriched plasma into the tendon – none of which provided durable relief from the pain and handicap.

In desperation, Liz decided to consult the local osteopath in Uxbridge, located in her main gym club. The young woman I met was complaining of crippling shoulder as well as elbow pain; she was on a prescribed combination of strong drugs (Neurofen Plus, Tramadol and Diazepam) that had no lasting effect; and above all, she was angry and depressed at feeling so crippled and making no progress towards a recovery she viewed as vital if she was to pursue her fitness career.

My clinical examination confirmed all the soft tissue features typically associated with tennis elbow, but careful palpation of the elbow joint provided another critical clue: the articulation between the radial head and the humerus was slightly subluxed (i.e. “out of alignment”), generating structural soft-tissue stress that would remain unaltered until the joint was realigned.

From the instant the radio-humeral joint was reset, Liz’s relief was palpable. It required a few more sessions to rehabilitate the chronically strained related tissues in the shoulder, neck and mid-back; but essentially, Liz had not looked back, is making steady and increasingly rapid progress towards full recovery – and is gradually resuming weight-training.

Osteopathy’s view of this case is that body structure and function are permanently interrelated. If Liz’s elbow tendon was chronically injured and inflamed, was another related anatomical mal-alignment inhibiting the healing process? Addressing that question provided the key to solving Liz’s “intractable” elbow pain.

If you are suffering from tennis elbow or any other repetitive strain injury, do not hesitate to contact us for help or advice.  We are an osteopaths in Ealing and also in Uxbridge.

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