Caitlin discusses her study with keen tennis player Roy Pidgeon.
Caitlin discusses her study with keen tennis player Roy Pidgeon.

CQUni serving up new tennis elbow treatment

DO YOU have elbow pain and find it difficult to do even the simplest of tasks?

CQUniversity research student Caitlin George is keen to hear from people who are willing to visit the campus for a series of three tests to help find a treatment.

Ms George, who moved to Yeppoon from Melbourne four years ago, is studying lateral epicondylalgia (better known as tennis elbow) and is looking into the potential benefits of a new kind of tape, called biomechanical tape.

“This elastic tape is like kinesiotape (the colourful tape you see on athletes), but biomechanical tape is designed to reduce load on muscles and tendons,” she said.

“We think this might help improve pain and function in people with tennis elbow.”

Tennis elbow is a common, causing pain during everyday tasks, especially while gripping, or even making a cup of tea.

“The pain is likely due to a poor healing response of one of the tendons at the elbow,” Ms George said.

“We also think that changes in the muscle function around the elbow, wrist, and hand might contribute to the problem.

“Interestingly, the most common cause isn’t tennis, although tennis players, particularly novices who prefer a one-handed backhand stroke, have a higher risk of developing tennis elbow.

Research student Caitlin George and Physiotherapy academic Luke Heales discuss the potential of ActiveTape.
Research student Caitlin George and Physiotherapy academic Luke Heales discuss the potential of ActiveTape.

“Tennis elbow occurs in about 3 per cent of the general population. However, we see higher rates in manual workers who use repetitive, forceful movements of their arms during daily tasks.

“Unfortunately, one of the big problems we see with tennis elbow is that it remains painful for a long time. About two-thirds of people still experience some pain or impairment at 12 months, which can be quite frustrating for them.”

Ms George said she was drawn in to studying the condition because after eight years of working as a clinician, she felt she hadn’t nailed the treatment.

“It seemed like a good condition to get stuck into and understand a little bit more about,” she said.

“It’s a particularly difficult condition to treat.

“It seems simple, you diagnose it by pointing at the sore spot on your elbow, but then it’s just this really complicated problem involving the muscle activity and the pain receptors and the tendon itself.

“Clinicians use tape, but we actually don’t understand a lot about why taping works or how it works — there is a gap in the literature that seemed like an interesting one to be able to fill.”

Supported by Sports Medicine Australia, who awarded Ms George a research grant to help with the research, she said the recruitment of people with tennis elbow aimed to see if biomechanical tape had any effect.

“I will apply biomechanical tape to each person in different ways and measure their pain, grip strength, and muscle function,” she said.

“These variables will help us understand whether biomechanical tape can help people with tennis elbow, and potentially tell us about how it is working.

“We’re hoping to recruit people who have elbow pain, who are willing to come in for testing at CQUniversity Rockhampton North campus on three occasions. I will examine each person’s injury to ensure an accurate diagnosis, so that we find the right people for our study.”

Prospective study participants can contact Ms George via c.e.george@cqu.edu.au or visit the Tennis Elbow Online Screening Survey.



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