Tennis elbow — or Lateral epicondylitis — is a very common overuse injury experienced by both racket sport players and those that work with their hands alike. The term lateral epicondylitis indicates that there is inflammation at the common tendon that attaches a group of forearm muscles to the bony bump on the outside of your elbow (lateral epicondyle). Acupuncture is a powerful tool to treat tennis elbow, or any similar repetitive-use injury.
What is tennis elbow?
This injury was nicknamed “tennis elbow” because repetitive use of the wrist extensor muscles occurs every time the athlete hits a backhand shot. In fact, it’s reported that an athlete hits an average of 100 backhand shots in a single tennis match. Many will play multiple matches over the course of the week, some with additional practice on top of that. As these back hand shots accumulate, there is tension that develops in the extensor muscles and the repetitive force transfers to the tendon insertion.
Over time this tendon can become irritated and inflamed and will begin to cause pain at the outside of the elbow. Once inflamed, the athlete will likely start to experience pain with all movements that involve wrist extension such as shaking hands, turning a door knob, or even lifting a coffee mug. If this condition is ignored and the athlete continues to stress the elbow, symptoms will likely worsen.
How can acupuncture help?
Acupuncture is an excellent tool for tennis elbow for multiple reasons.
- The primary reason is that acupuncture needles have an amazing anti-inflammatory effect. Needles inserted at or near the outside of the elbow will help to bring down some of the pain by reducing local inflammation in the tendon.
- Secondly, acupuncture needles are able to resolve tension in the extensor muscles of the wrist. When there is less tension in the wrist extensor muscles, there is less stress on their tendon which leads to less inflammation.
- Lastly, acupuncture points needled on body areas other than the elbow can have a systemic effect at reducing the perception of pain, promoting relaxation and proper healing.
If you or someone you know is experiencing pain at the outside of their elbow, don’t wait until symptoms get worse! When used early on in the course of injury, acupuncture is a great tool to treat tennis elbow and stop it in its tracks to get you back on the court or back to work.
“Mr Paul Jarrett: Epicondylitis/Tennis Elbow/Golfer’s Elbow.” Murdoch Orthopaedic Clinic, https://murdochorthopaedic.com.au/our-surgeons/paul-jarrett/patient-information-guides/epicondylitis-tennis-elbow-golfers-elbow/.
Jeff, Author. “Shot-by-Shot Stats.” Heavy Topspin, 4 Jan. 2020, http://www.tennisabstract.com/blog/category/shot-by-shot-stats/#:~:text=The%20average%20player%20hits%20about,shot%20that%20set%20it%20up.
Callison, Matt, et al. Sports Medicine Acupuncture: An Integrated Approach Combining Sports Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. AcuSport Education., 2019.
Author Adam Gawlak is a Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc) and personal trainer (CSCS). His specialities include sports medicine acupuncture, motor point acupuncture, trigger point needling and traditional Chinese medicine, along with strength training, athletic performance, and corrective exercise.
Hyatt Training is a team of certified, enthusiastic and innovative health and fitness professionals in Portland, Oregon.