By FGHG Osteopath, Nicole Cukierman
The answer is unexpected but makes perfect sense! Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an irritation and overuse of the muscles and tendons that extend your wrist and fingers. Anyone who finds themselves repeating the same actions over and over can develop this painful and chronic condition. While 50% of tennis players experience tennis elbow, it is also a common complaint for new mums and dads. Sometimes it can feel like life is set on repeat with a new baby and in many ways it is. The repetitive action of picking up bubs, the strain of holding your baby tight while your elbow is in a flexed position and the constant packing and repacking of the car, nappy bag and pram. Add a lack of sleep or rest to that and the conditions for repetitive strain are ideal.
However, there is good news! 80-95% of patients with tennis elbow, or repetitive strain injury (RSI) have success with conservative treatment. As osteopaths we assess the body as a whole to target the primary tissues involved, as well as identify which internal and external factors may be contributing. Particular considerations for new mums is that they still have relaxin hormone flowing through their body which is designed to assist during birth. The presence of this hormone for about six weeks post-natally means that ligaments are more lax and muscles have to work harder to stabilise, in addition to the extra strain on the body that feeding a new born can have on mums’ back, neck and rib cage which also need to be addressed.
Treatment for these types of repetitive strain injury consists of a range of osteopathic techniques including soft tissue, resistance stretching, joint mobilisation and dry needing to these areas along with appropriate rehabilitation. Rest, using natural anti-inflammatory creams (see guidelines if nursing), bracing, equipment modification and acupuncture for pain management are also extremely helpful and recommended as required.
Some useful tips for new parents to avoid the development of tennis elbow include switching arms when picking up and cradling your baby, using your non-dominant side when carrying out daily chores and using a pillow to support your arm while breast or bottle feeding. One of the best things to do is when you notice that your body is aching or strained, is to try to make the time to rest or see your therapist to address these tensions before they become a chronic and ongoing issue.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash