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Let's talk about that! Welcome to the Hybrid Health Blog- where we take a deeper look at the science and information behind our treatment techniques.

  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Earehart, DC

Understanding Tennis Elbow and the Benefits of Soft-Tissue Work

Tennis elbow (pickle ball elbow), or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition resulting from overuse of the elbow and forearm muscles, leading to inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow. Despite its name, tennis elbow is not limited to athletes; it can affect anyone who engages in repetitive arm movements, such as painters, carpenters, and office workers. This condition is characterized by pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow, which can radiate down the forearm and wrist, making everyday activities challenging. Fortunately, soft-tissue work, including massage therapy, myofascial release, and other manual techniques, offers a promising solution for managing and alleviating the pain and strain associated with tennis elbow.

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow occurs when the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the lateral epicondyle of the elbow become overloaded and develop microscopic tears. These tears lead to inflammation, pain, and a weakened grip. Common symptoms include pain or burning on the outer part of the elbow, weakened grip strength, and pain that worsens with forearm activity.

The Role of Soft-Tissue Work in Treating Tennis Elbow

Soft-tissue work encompasses various manual therapies designed to relieve pain, improve circulation, and enhance muscle function. Techniques such as massage therapy, myofascial release, and trigger point therapy can be particularly beneficial for tennis elbow. Here’s how these therapies can help:

1. Massage Therapy

Massage therapy involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body to alleviate pain and improve function. For tennis elbow, specific massage techniques can help to:

  • Reduce Inflammation and Pain: Gentle, targeted massage can decrease inflammation in the affected tendons and muscles, providing relief from pain.

  • Enhance Blood Flow: Increased circulation helps deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissues, promoting faster healing and reducing stiffness.

  • Release Muscle Tension: By relaxing the muscles around the elbow and forearm, massage can reduce strain on the tendons, allowing them to heal more effectively.

  • Break Down Scar Tissue: Over time, scar tissue can develop in response to chronic inflammation and injury. Massage therapy can help break down this scar tissue, improving flexibility and reducing pain.

2. Myofascial Release

Myofascial release focuses on relieving tension in the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs. For individuals with tennis elbow, myofascial release can offer significant benefits:

  • Stretch and Loosen the Fascia: Tight fascia can restrict movement and exacerbate pain. Myofascial release techniques aim to stretch and loosen these tissues, enhancing mobility and reducing discomfort.

  • Improve Muscle Function: By addressing fascial restrictions, myofascial release can improve the overall function of the forearm muscles, reducing the strain on the tendons and alleviating symptoms.

  • Promote Healing: Releasing tension in the fascia can improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage, facilitating the body’s natural healing processes.

3. Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy targets specific points of hyperirritability within the muscles, known as trigger points. These points can refer pain to other areas, including the elbow. Benefits of trigger point therapy for tennis elbow include:

  • Identify and Release Trigger Points: Therapists use pressure techniques to identify and release trigger points in the forearm muscles, reducing referred pain and muscle tension.

  • Restore Normal Muscle Function: By alleviating the tightness caused by trigger points, this therapy can restore normal muscle function, improving flexibility and strength.

  • Prevent Recurrence: Regular trigger point therapy can help maintain muscle health and prevent the recurrence of trigger points and associated pain.

Incorporating Soft-Tissue Work into a Comprehensive Treatment Plan

While soft-tissue work can provide significant relief from tennis elbow, it is most effective when integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan. Here are some additional strategies to consider:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoid activities that exacerbate pain and allow the tendons to heal. Modify your activities to reduce strain on the elbow.

  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Engage in exercises that stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles, improving flexibility and resilience.

  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Ensure that your work environment is ergonomically sound to minimize repetitive strain on the elbow.

  • Use of Supports: Wrist splints or elbow braces can provide additional support and reduce strain during activities.

Tennis elbow can be a debilitating condition, but with the right approach, relief is within reach. Soft-tissue work, including massage therapy, myofascial release, and trigger point therapy, offers valuable benefits by reducing inflammation, improving circulation, releasing muscle tension, and promoting healing. When combined with other treatment strategies, soft-tissue work can help you overcome the pain and strain of tennis elbow, restoring function and improving your quality of life. If you’re struggling with tennis elbow, consider consulting a healthcare professional or a licensed therapist to explore the best treatment options for your needs.


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