Tennis ElbowIntroduction to Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is one of the most common—and most frustrating—injuries among racquet sport players and others who actively use the muscles of the forearm. It is characterized by pain and tenderness over the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle), that may also radiate down the forearm. Activities that are especially painful to tennis elbow sufferers include:
- lifting or carrying objects, when the fingers and hand are bearing most of the load
- squeezing actions such as shaking hands
- rotation of the wrist, including wringing motions, twisting a door knob or using a screwdriver
- extending or cocking the wrist
The symptoms of tennis elbow are caused by inflammation and micro-tears of the tendon connecting the extensor muscles of the wrist to the lateral epicondyle (the bony bump on the outside of the elbow). It is considered to be a form of tendonitis. Tennis players aren’t alone in their battle with this challenge, however. It can be caused by any activity that involves repetitive use of the forearm muscles, even such simple activities as using hand tools, pulling weeds, painting or carrying a heavy briefcase. Among tennis players, the most common causes are:
- poor backhand technique, especially with a one-handed backhand
- a racquet grip that is too small
- strings that are too tight
- playing with soft, wet or heavy balls
There are as many treatments for tennis elbow as there are causes, and many sufferers expend significant time and money before finding the best solution for them. Home-based treatments include elbow braces or supports, forearm straps to compress the wrist extensors, shock-absorbing devices worn near the elbow, liniments and creams, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Medical interventions include acupuncture, prescription medication, cortisone injections and physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the surrounding musculature. Surgery is rare, but may be required in serious cases.
Many cases of tennis elbow respond to simple therapies like rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication within a few weeks. Others, however, are more resistant to treatment, and become long-lasting chronic conditions.
Kinesiology Taping for Tennis Elbow
Kinesiology taping is an exciting new development in the treatment and management of tennis elbow. This thin, lightweight, stretchy tape can be worn 24/7 for several days, providing round-the-clock therapy and relief for stubborn cases of elbow pain. Once applied, there is virtually no sensation from wearing kinesiology tape, and its elasticity allows it to provide helpful support without restricting range of motion. This is one of the most important benefits of kinesiology tape to those who need to continue their activity while wearing it.
Different Taping Techniques for Different Outcomes
Different taping techniques can be used, depending on the desired outcome. We will first look at how to apply kinesiology tape for an acute case of tennis elbow, followed by taping techniques for a more chronic condition. In addition, one application will be based on using kinesiology tape from a roll, while the other will be based on using a pre-cut application designed specifically for the elbow.
Kinesiology Taping for Acute Tennis Elbow
In the case of an acute injury with inflammation, the goal is to reduce inflammation and relax the overused muscles, allowing the healing process to begin. To achieve this, the tape is applied from the insertion (wrist end) toward the origin (elbow end) of the forearm extensor muscles. Both the muscle and the tape are stretched during application to maximally enhance circulation and take pressure off of the inflamed muscle. This type of taping would be most beneficial during the acute stages of tennis elbow when activity levels have been restricted. It will enhance and prolong the benefits of physical therapy when worn between therapy sessions.
How to Apply Kinesiology Tape for Acute Tennis Elbow
These step-by-step instructions are based on cutting and applying an application from a roll of Kinesio Tex Tape. They are followed by a video showing exactly the same application performed by a chiropractor. This technique is designed to reduce the inflammation in an acute case of tennis elbow and to help the muscle relax and recover. In this instance the tape will be applied from the insertion (wrist end) toward the origin (elbow end) of the wrist extensor muscles.
1. Cut a “Y” strip of tape long enough to stretch from wrist to just below the elbow
2. Flex the wrist (palm toward inner side of wrist), then rotate it slightly to the outside.
3. Remove the backing from the first inch (anchor end) of tape and apply with no stretch on the back side of the wrist, immediately above the hand.
4. Remove the backing from one side of the “Y” and stretch the tape approximately 25% of it’s available stretch. Carefully apply the tape along the inner border of the wrist flexors, ending just below the elbow. Apply the final 1” of tape with no stretch. Rub tape to activate adhesive.
5. Remove the backing from the other side of the “Y” and stretch the tape approximately 25% of it’s available stretch. Carefully apply the tape along the outer border of the wrist flexors, ending just below the elbow. Apply the final 1” of tape with no stretch. Rub tape to activate adhesive.
6. Cut a strip of tape approximately 3” long. Tear the tape backing in the middle of the tape and peel backing back 1” in each direction from the middle. Stretch this part of the tape to add 40% to its resting length, then apply directly below the elbow, partially covering the ends of the Y strips. Rub tape to activate adhesive, then apply the ends of the tape with no stretch.
Video - Kinesio Tex Tape Application for Acute Tennis Elbow
The following video shows chiropractor, Dr. Scott Swanson, demonstrating the proper technique for applying Kinesio Tape to someone with tennis elbow. This application technique is designed to increase circulation to the overused extensor muscles of the forearm, helping to reduce inflammation. It also reduces the activation signals to these muscles, allowing them to relax and recover from the lateral epicondylitis condition.
Kinesiology Taping for Chronic Tennis Elbow
A different taping technique would be used for individuals with chronic lateral epicondylitis, who need to continue or return to full activity, despite continued elbow pain. Many athletes prefer to “play through” overuse injuries like tendonitis of the elbow, while manual laborers with lateral epicondylitis may need to continue working to earn a living. This technique is also applicable to individuals returning to activity after taking time off due to tennis elbow pain.
In these situations, the goal is to relieve pain and provide structural support for the muscles of the forearm. Taping from the origin (elbow end) to the insertion (wrist end) of the forearm extensors will facilitate activation of these muscles, overriding the body’s natural decrease in muscle tone and muscle activation that occur in response to pain. This reduces the chance of additional injury related to abnormal movement patterns that develop as compensation for lack of strength. Only the muscle is stretched in this type of neurosensory application, leaving the tape to be applied with no additional stretch.
How to Apply Pre-Cut Kinesiology Tape for Chronic Tennis Elbow
The following step-by-step instructions are for using the SpiderTech Pre-Cut Elbow application. It is one of 15 different precut kinesiology tape applications for different parts of the body. Pre-cut kinesiology tape is designed as a "one size fits most" application that is suitable for virually anyone from adolescent to large adult size. It avoids the time and difficulty of designing and cutting complicated kinesiology tape applications.
Ensure that the skin of the elbow and forearm is clean and dry. Prepare the precut elbow kinesiology tape by tearing the backing along each of the perforated lines. This will allow you to apply each section individually, creating a more effective application.
Remove the backing from section 1 (the anchor) and apply with no stretch in the tape to the outside of the arm just above the lateral epicondyle (bony bump on the outside of the elbow). Gently rub tape from the center out to activate adhesive.
Remove the backing from both sections 2 and apply both sides to the skin with no stretch in the tape. Gently rub the tape from the center toward the ends to activate the adhesive.
Remove the backing of section 3 and stretch the tape approximately 1″ longer than resting length so that the hole is directly over the lateral epicondyle (bony bump on the outside of the elbow). Rub to activate adhesive.
Flex the wrist, pointing fingers downward. Begin removing backing from the outside arm of section 4, applying the tape in the direction of the little finger with no additional stretch in the tape. If the tape is applied to the skin as the backing is removed, you will create the ideal tension.
Keeping the wrist flexed and the fingers pointed downward, begin peeling the backing from the inside arm of section 4, applying the tape in the direction of the thumb. If the tape is applied to the skin as the backing is removed, you will create the perfect tension.
Be sure to gently rub over the entire taped area to activate the glue. For best results, apply tape 30-60 minutes before sweating, swimming or showering. It is recommended to read our complete list of tips for applying and removing kinesiology tape before attempting any kinesiology tape applications.
Video - Kinesiology Taping Application for Acute Tennis Elbow
The following video shows Dr. Kevin Jardine, inventor of SpiderTech pre-cut kinesiology taping applications, demonstrating the proper technique for applying the Elbow Spider to someone with tennis elbow. This application technique is designed to reduce elbow pain and optimize muscle activation in the forearm extensors - the muscles directly responsible for the pain and inflammation of tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis.
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The SpiderTech Elbow Spider is a precut kinesiology tape for the elbow and forearm. It can be worn on either the inside or outside of the elbow. It can help with:
- tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
- golfer\'s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
- muscle, ligament or tendon injuries of the elbow or forearm
- olecranon bursitis
- arthritis or bursitis of the elbow
- elbow enthesopathy
- cubital tunnel syndrome
* Contains 1 single-use application with 3-5 day wear time.
Easy-to-apply kinesiology tape support for elbow pain. Can be applied to inner, outer or back of elbow. Great for:
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer\'s elbow
- Bursitis or arthritis
- Tendon or ligament injuries
- Recovery after elbow surgery
* Contains 5 packages, each with 1 single-use application with a wear time of 3-5 days.