It's Never "Just the Elbow" - Superior Physical Therapy


It’s Never “Just the Elbow”

by Nick Hawkins, Physical Therapist

When one has elbow pain, it’s rarely just about the elbow. Just like when a knock down, blow out fight occurs because the trash wasn’t taken out, it’s never just about taking out the trash. We need to ask ourselves “okay, what is really going on, what underlying issues are causing this?”

The term “tennis elbow” is a commonly used term for when the tendons extensor carpi radialis brevis and extensor carpi radialis longus in the elbow get inflamed and irritated. Think about how many activities we do with our arms and hands, nearly everything! The tendons in the elbows have an important job which they cannot do alone.

The tendons in the elbow need help from other areas in the body. Let’s dive deeper into this.

Whenever we lift anything, or reach for anything, is it just my elbows doing the work? Is the rest of my body reacting to what I am doing?

YES – I can’t reach for something without using my shoulder. My shoulder cannot move without contribution from my scapula. My scapula literally sits on my ribcage which is my thoracic spine. My thoracic spine directly controls the loading of the core which greatly influences my hips during upright function. I cannot move my hips without the foot and ankle having to react and provide the freedom to enable this.


Did I just suggest that a limitation in the foot and ankle could cause stress at the elbow?


Let’s return to the beginning.

It’s never just the elbow.

If you are experiencing elbow pain, take a minute and think about where else in your body is limiting you? Is it your shoulder, neck, low back, hips, knees? Our body is just one big chain reaction.

Nick Hawkins, PT, DPT


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