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Is Your Elbow Pain Really a Pain in the Neck?

With tennis and golf we commonly see elbow issues arise. Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) refers to pain on the outside of the elbow and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is pain on the inside of the elbow.

Fixing elbow pain should be simple with good treatment but not everyone gets the same results. When the treatments don’t seem to work most people resign themselves to wearing an elbow brace or taking painkillers whenever they get out on the tennis court or golf course.

If your elbow pain hasn’t resolved with consistent treatment to the elbow then it may be time to look upstream. A commonly overlooked cause of elbow pain is the neck.

A study in 2010 from the Journal of Musculoskeletal medicine (1) showed a strong link between lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and cervical radiculopathy (neck pain that shoots down the arm and forearm). The authors found that most of the patients that had tennis elbow had an issue at the neck joint referred to as C6-7. There is a nerve root that exits at this neck joint that when injured or compromised can lead to muscle weakness in the elbow. This muscle weakness can eventually lead to injury and overuse of other muscles in the arm.

Taking this study into consideration, a good treatment plan for elbow pain that isn’t resolving must include assessing and treating the neck as well. Orthopedic and neurologic testing can be done in house by a chiropractor or physiotherapist. Treatment can include traction, soft tissue work, joint mobilization, nerve release, ice and modalities such as ultrasound. Exercises are also important for improving the range of motion around each joint and strengthening the supportive muscles for the neck and shoulder.

To learn more or have an assessment you can book with our chiropractor who is skilled in orthopedic and functional testing to determine the root cause of your injury.


(1) Lee AT, Lee-Robinson AL. The prevalence of medial epicondylitis among patients with c6 and c7 radiculopathy. Sports Health. 2010;2(4):334-336. doi:10.1177/1941738109357304

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