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Tennis Elbow: Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis
Figure A. Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) primarily involves the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle.
Spring is coming and so is an increase of activity and exercise for our patients. Lateral epicondylitis, or “tennis elbow,” may be coming into your practice soon (Fig. A).
The “go to” muscle for lateral epicondylitis is the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB). Research shows that this muscle is the primary extensor muscle involved in lateral epicondylitis (Safran, M. 2010). It is good to treat the extensor carpi radialis longus (ECRL) muscle as well since these two muscles are myofascially connected (LI sinew channel). The ECRB directly attaches to the lateral epicondyle and the ECRL has strong fascial attachments to the lateral epicondyle.
Treating these muscle motor points can help decrease the pain caused by Cozen’s Test(Fig. B) when assessed before and after the acupuncture treatment. The extensor digitorum communis (SJ sinew channel) is also a major extensor of the wrist that attaches to the lateral epicondyle and its involvement in the tennis elbow injury can be assessed with a manual muscle test.
Figure B. Cozen;s Test involves a contraction of the wrist extensors against resistance.
In the video below, we locate and needle the ECRB and ECRL muscle motor points and test they are in the proper tissue by engaging the muscles actively. Engaging muscle tissue actively while the acupuncture needle is in its muscle motor point (placed in the correct depth) can potentially increase sensitivity and proprioception.
Safran M. The Athlete’s Elbow, An Issue of Clinics in Sports Medicine, 1e (The Clinics: Orthopedics). 1st ed. Saunders; 2010.
Learn how to treat tennis elbow and other sports-related injuries in AcuSport Education’s SMAC Certification Program. Click below for more info!
Matt Callison is the president of the Sports Medicine Acupuncture Certification program. He has been combining sports medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for over 26 years. He is the author of the Motor Point and Acupuncture Meridians Chart, the Motor Point Index, The Sports Medicine Acupuncture textbook and many articles on the combination of sports medicine and TCM.