Physical Therapy of Los Gatos 15047 Los Gatos Boulevard, Suite 180 • Call (408) 358-6505 Tue, 11 Apr 2017 21:54:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Helping San Jose Fit Run Clear of Injuries Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:28:51 +0000

A runner’s ability to avoid and manage injury will determine his or her fitness on race day. To help local runners reach their goals, Physical Therapists Rob Naber and Jenny Warner from Physical Therapy of Los Gatos, and Dr. John Kao from the SOAR Medical Clinic teamed up in May to deliver a running injury prevention and treatment seminar to 150 members of the San Jose Fit marathon training club.

Already several weeks into their training program, the San Jose Fit runners were engaged and attentive as Rob Naber presented information on avoiding and managing injuries. The runners received information on pronation and supination, walking and running biomechanics, and some corrective exercises that Physical Therapists prescribe to address specific problems.

Dr. Kao’s presentation provided information about the causes of injuries, specific training errors to avoid, and detailed medical descriptions of several kinds of running injuries. He also explained the injury first-aid “PRICEMM” protocol, which calls for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Medications, and other treatment Modalities.

The presenters offered these key take-away messages to the San Jose Fit runners:

  • Avoiding injury is the key to running success
  • Most injuries result from overtraining
  • Do not increase training mileage or duration by more that 10% per week
  • Complement your running training with specific stretching and strengthening exercises
  • If you have an injury, use cross-training activities to continue your fitness training
  • Use a heart rate monitor to maximize the benefit from your cross training efforts

Dr. Kao recommended contacting a physician whenever any of these circumstances arise:

  • Pain is localized to the bone or joint
  • Joint motion is accompanied by catching, popping or locking
  • Pain cannot be controlled by the recommended dose of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen
  • The problem persists for more than two weeks
  • You are worried or concerned about your symptoms

Dr. Kao noted that individuals can make the most of any medical visit by coming prepared with accurate information about their injuries and symptoms. Dr. Kao can be reached by contacting his assistant Wendy at (408) 247-4900 x1214.

The seminar presenters thank Sports Basement for the use of their Sunnyvale store conference facility for the San Jose Fit seminar.

ACL Injury Information and Screening Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:28:39 +0000

Education, screening and specialized training can turn back the rising incidence of ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries in young female athletes. That’s why Physical Therapy of Los Gatos is pleased to announce the new community information web site Los Gatos ACL. There, you’ll find information on the ACL, ACL injury, prevention, rehabilitation, and our Sportsmetrics™ -certified screening program for identifying individual athletes at greatest risk of injury.

The screening program is a free service for the Los Gatos community provided by Physical Therapy of Los Gatos. Donations for participating in the program go directly toward athletic team fund-raising goals.

For more information, visit

Train-the-Trainer Seminar for Pilates Professionals Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:28:24 +0000

On Saturday January 20, 2007, Pilates instructors from around the Bay Area met at Los Gatos Pilates to attend the Physical Therapy of Los Gatos Train-the-Trainer seminar: “Assessment for Pilates Instructors.” The purpose of the seminar was to present key physical assessment tools that Pilates instructors can use to customize exercise programs to meet the specific  needs of individual clients.

“Given the many similarities between Physical Therapy and Pilates, the move to more prescriptive exercise provides greater long term results for clients,” said Rob Naber, founder of Physical Therapy of Los Gatos.   The seminar included an instructional lecture and hands-on practice to assess client’s posture, spinal lumbopelvic range of motion and rhythm, flexibility and core strength.  At the conclusion, case studies were presented with “home work” for the attendees.  Answers to the assignment are provided at the end of the presentation.

Physical Therapy of Los Gatos thanks Nancy Chin and Marcie Ryken at Los Gatos Pilates for hosting the seminar.

Download “Physical Assessment for the Pilates Professional” (7.5 MB pdf)

Pilates at Physical Therapy of Los Gatos Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:28:11 +0000

Therapeutic exercise is a hallmark of physical therapy. Among many benefits, therapeutic exercise can restore correct strength ratios between muscles, increase functional capacity, and improve coordination.

When prescribing therapeutic exercise, the physical therapist must consider the entire sequence of neuromuscular events that allows the patient to perform their daily activities and sports. This sequence can be thought of as a chain composed of three elements: proximal (closest to the spine) stability, distal (away from the spine) motion, and finally, the desired fine motor skill.

While this sequence of neuromuscular events accompanies all deliberate human motion, it is perhaps most readily illustrated by the action of throwing a dart. The motion requires a firm basis of proximal support and slight rotation around the spine, distal motion performed by muscles of the chest, shoulder, and upper and lower arm, and fine motor skill as the fingers take control of the dart’s release. The controlled, simultaneous engagement of all three elements is what enables the competitor to hit the target’s triple ring.

In Pilates-speak, the deep muscles of the trunk that provide proximal stability are called the “core,” and the ability to move one’s limbs and carry out skilled tasks while holding the trunk steady is called “dissociation.” Strength and control over these deep muscles of your trunk provide the stable base required to perform tasks such as kicking a soccer ball or swinging a golf club.

Here at Physical Therapy of Los Gatos we draw from a wide a variety of exercises to help our patients coordinate, strengthen, and engage this three-part chain. Visitors to our clinic might recognize our use of movements from yoga, Swiss ball exercises, elastic band resistance exercises — even pull ups and hands stands. They might also recognize mat-based and equipment-based Pilates exercises. As a form of exercise, Pilates expands the clinical repertoire of physical therapy with a diverse range of exercises, performed in multiple planes and positions.

Pilates for Neuromuscular Retraining
Full recovery from injury proceeds through overlapping stages. Therapy to bring about full recovery must be coordinated with these stages. Initially, a patient may need to unlearn inefficient movement patterns that allowed the injury to occur in the first place. The Pilates Reformer offers an effective exercise platform where this unlearning can occur, and old patterns of movement can be replaced by ones that properly engage the proximal to distal to fine motor skill sequence. The Reformer enforces correct exercise motion and helps the therapist and patient isolate and train the deep muscles of the trunk required for proximal stability.

On the Pilates Reformer, neuromuscular re-training exercises can be performed in kneeling, supine, prone, or side-lying positions. This allows the therapist to prescribe some unusual exercises, such as supine “jumping” and rowing while kneeling. Patients and therapists have found that neuromuscular retraining to correct injury-causing patterns of movement proceeds more rapidly in these unfamiliar exercise positions, where gravity pulls the body along different axes and the usual proprioceptive cues are absent. As training proceeds, the therapist can progress the patient to exercise postures needed for his or her sports and activities to fully restore endurance, power and agility.

Pilates for Correct and Calibrated Strengthening
At Physical Therapy of Los Gatos we design individualized treatment programs that coordinate the timing and intensity of therapeutic exercise with each patient’s condition and functional capabilities. Injured tissues such as bones and ligaments must be allowed to heal, but incremental loading (progressive resistance training to increase strength) along correct axes is required to bring about full maturation of healing tissue. If exercise is delayed or inadequate, the muscles around the injured site become weaker and atrophy, slowing down the recovery process. Pilates helps close the gap between bed rest and full recovery by providing a variety of exercises that can be performed over a wide range of functional abilities.

In the case of a basketball player recovering from knee arthroscopy, the mechanics of jumping can be practiced in a supine position on the horizontal carriage of the Pilates Reformer. In addition to providing the neuromuscular training benefits described above, the Reformer in this case allows the therapist to initiate incremental loading of the affected knee without subjecting injured tissues to the full forces of gravity. In this type of therapeutic exercise, the Reformer is unlike a traditional leg-press apparatus because the patient’s position during the Reformer exercise simulates the relative head, torso, and leg alignment of regular upright jumping. With Pilates, the physical therapist can prescribe low-intensity jumping exercise in early treatment, and increase the intensity as recovery progresses. This enables the patient to recover upright jump capability and return to competition sooner.

Pilates for Full Recoveries
To us, “full recovery” does not simply mean returning the patient to his or her previous activities in order to be injured again. We are unique in our analytical approach into the causes of each patient’s susceptibility to injury. Our definition of full recovery includes identifying and strengthening weak muscles that allowed the injury to occur in the first place, and achieving neuromuscular control consistent with injury prevention. Ideas such as “dissociation” and “core” in Pilates helps isolate and train muscles responsible for preventing injury.

Rob Naber’s Presentation at the West Valley College Sports Medicine Symposium Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:28:06 +0000

The Spring 2006 West Valley College Sports Medicine Symposium was held May 5th. The symposium was organized by John Kao MD for an audience consisting of physical therapists, athletic trainers, and physicians. The purpose of the Sports Medicine Symposia series is to continue improving the standard of orthopedic medicine here in the Bay Area by providing orthopedic professionals an opportunity to share their knowledge with one another and with other medical practitioners. This year’s spring symposium focused on current challenges of treating the lower extremities.

The following local professionals gave presentations:

  • John T. Kao, M.D.
  • Grady L. Jeter, M.D.
  • Robert S. Nishime, M.D.
  • Thomas Elardo, D.P.M.
  • Paul Christensen, DPT, OCS, ATC
  • Rob Naber PT, OCS, ATC
  • Ross Nakaji PT, OCS, ATC, CSCS
  • Fabrice Rockich, DPT, OCS, CSCS
  • Paul Starks, MA, ATC, PTA, CSCS

Physical Therapy of Los Gatos principal Rob Naber spoke about the evaluation and treatment of problems affecting the knee. Rob began by noting the value of recent knee research and the bearing of research findings on the practitioner’s approach to knee conditions and injuries:

“The knee is often the weakest link that defines and limits an athlete’s total competitive capacity. The knee is needed for speed, power and strength, but is also vulnerable to injury. A knee injury not only means missing practice or competition but may also lead to the loss of scholarship support and potential professional opportunities. Extensive research of the knee, and improved diagnostic, rehabilitation, and surgical methods have brought new hope to athletes and clinicians dealing with the challenges of the injured knee.”

– from Current Issues in Sports Medicine: The Knee presented by Rob Naber PT, OCS, ATC

One of the key takeaway messages from Rob’s presentation was the importance of quantifying the capability and condition of the knee while the joint is in motion. In the evaluation and treatment of anterior knee pain, for instance, measuring the concentric vs. eccentric torque capacities of the knee is critically important as a diagnostic aid and as a reliable indicator of treatment progress. In rehabilitation following surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament, videographic analysis of lower extremity angles during landing and jumping provides data the therapist needs to design and carry out a course of treatment that brings about rapid restoration of function and corrects neuromuscular control deficiencies that would otherwise invite re-injury.

Using the links below, interested individuals can view visuals and handouts from Rob Naber’s presentation to the Spring 2006 West Valley College Sports Medicine Symposium. For more information about Physical Therapy of Los Gatos’ approach to the evaluation and treatment of knee problems, please call the clinic at (408) 358-6505.

Current Issues in Sports Medicine: The Knee (view presentation visuals)
Current Issues In Sports Medicine: The Knee (download text)

Jump Strength Training Program (download program description)

Jump Strength Training Glossary (download glossary)

Ligament Sprains Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:28:04 +0000

You know the feeling. You’ve put in the miles, the hills, the interval training. Now it’s race day and you’re having a good one. You feel balanced, light, and fast. You press the pace one more click and leave another pack of runners behind.

Then it happens. Your foot comes down on a rock and rolls painfully inward. You hear a sickening “pop,” you go down, and the runners you just passed thunder past you. Nauseating pain overwhelms your interest in the torn skin on your hands and stays with you throughout the long limp back to town.

Here in Los Gatos we’re fortunate to have miles of unpaved recreational trails and utility roads, such as the Los Gatos Creek Trail, the Flume Trail, the Jones Trail, and the Limekiln Trail, offering a variety of terrain through our open space preserves. The race described above could well be our own late-summer annual event, the Dammit Run. If you suffer an ankle sprain while running in competition or in training, here’s what you need to know to get back on the trail and back up to speed.

A Few Definitions
A ligament is a band of fibrous tissue in a joint connecting bone to bone. Each joint has several ligaments. Ligaments are distinct from tendons, which connect muscle to bone. Ligaments support and strengthen joints and make joints stable by limiting joint motion from movements in unwanted directions.

A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched beyond its normal limits. Sprains are classified according to degrees of severity. A Grade I sprain involves damaging a ligament but not compromising its function of restraining unwanted motion. In a Grade II sprain, the ligament is partially torn and allows some unwanted motion. In a Grade III sprain, the ligament is completely torn and cannot stop unwanted motion, and joint stability and function are lost. Grade III sprains cause diffuse swelling and bruising around the affected joint.

A sprain is more than a simple mechanical injury. Sprains affect proprioception, the neural feedback mechanism that enables us to know the angles of our joints, and the positions of our limbs and extremities, without looking. Good proprioception is what enables us to run in the dark without thinking about where to put our feet, or land a jump shot when focusing on the hoop.

First Aid for Sprains
First Aid for sprains can be remembered by the acronym  “RICE,” (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). For Grade I sprains, First Aid treatment alone is often adequate. Grade II and III sprains require rapid administration of First Aid, plus medical evaluation and treatment including some external support, such as a McDavid ankle brace , to protect the ligament while healing. Complete recovery from a Grade II or Grade III sprain is unlikely to occur without medical attention.

Recovery from Sprain
Recovery from a sprain involves promoting the healing of the ligament, elimination of swelling and bruising, increasing strength, and restoring proprioception. At Physical Therapy of Los Gatos the goal of treatment is returning the individual to their pre-injury level of activities and sports, without elevated risk of re-injury. If our runner returns to training on the Los Gatos Creek Trail without fully restored proprioception, he or she will find intense concentration is needed on the exact placement of each foot-fall to prevent the injured ankle from rolling inward again. Longer term, residual changes in joint forces and mechanics, due to incomplete recovery, can accelerate degenerative changes and conditions, such as arthritis.

Restoring Proprioception
Proprioception is based on neural feedback loops that carry and compare information from the eyes and middle ear, and from the stretch receptors of muscles and connective tissues. Following a sprain injury, proprioception is restored by thoroughly rehabilitating neuromuscular control over the affected joint with facilitory techniques such as compression, vibration, and biofeedback. This must be accomplished in a way that promotes, rather than impairs, healing of the injured ligament, and trains the surrounding muscles to assist the injured ligament in supporting the joint while it heals.

Elements of Therapy for Sprain
Therapy begins with a thorough evaluation of the sprain injury. If a Grade III sprain is suspected, the injury should be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist, who will order and evaluate X-ray or MRI images to detect any damage to the underlying bone structure of the affected joint and to obtain a clear picture of soft tissue injuries. Evaluation of a sprain performed by a physical therapist or a physician will also include stress tests to measure the extent of abnormal joint motion caused by the injury, and the progressive tightening of the joint as the injured ligament heals, as compared to the stress-bearing characteristics of the opposite joint and normative values.

In addition to specific, individualized strengthening exercises aimed at re-establishing neuromuscular control and joint strength, physical therapy for sprain should also include evaluation and training of muscles affecting the entire limb of the injured joint. For instance, when ankle pain, weakness, or injury compromise proprioceptive cues, the hips and low back muscles will compensate by altering the injured individuals’ walking and running patterns. Because the goal of therapy is complete recovery, including normal or improved function, specific, progressive exercises are prescribed over the course of rehabilitation to restore motion, strength, and control throughout the entire limb.

If you suspect you have a joint injury involving ligament sprain, please contact us for expert advice by calling (408) 358-6505. For additional information about ankle sprain, see the related article “Foot and Ankle Injuries of Ballet Dancers.”

Foot and Ankle Injuries of Ballet Dancers Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:27:52 +0000

Injuries arising from inadequate or incorrect neuromuscular control during practice or performance, or poor management of an existing orthopedic injury, can sideline a ballet dancer for a season or for an entire career. In a recent workshop on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of foot and ankle injuries, Physical Therapy of Los Gatos physical therapist Ariel Lehaitre showed members of a local studio how to avoid and manage specific problems for which ballet dancers are at increased risk due to the physical challenges of their art.

With years of experience as a student of ballet, and specialized training in body mechanics and motions, Ariel brings a unique and valuable body of essential health information to the Bay Area ballet dance community. Though the workshop is incomplete without Ariel’s comments, explanations, and demonstrations, the presentation visuals available below provide useful information on specific dance injury types, causes, and degrees of severity. Additional visuals cover elements of effective treatment designs that enable dancers to return to practice without pain or elevated risk of re-injury.

The clinical staff at Physical Therapy of Los Gatos has the specialized training and direct experience required to understand the unique orthopedic challenges of ballet and provide care that produces complete recoveries from dance injuries. To discuss an individual concern, please contact us by calling (408) 358-6505.

Presentation visuals from workshop presentation “Foot and Ankle Injuries of Ballet Dancers” by Ariel Lehaitre (12 MB .pdf download)

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Western Occupational Health Conference: Lumbar Spine Stability Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:24:59 +0000

At the September 2005 Western Occupational Health Conference, Physical Therapy of Los Gatos principal Rob Naber delivered presentations on anterior knee pain and lumbar active range of motion. At the same conference, Rob also gave a somewhat more technical presentation for physicians on the topic of lumbar spine stability. This web site article was adapted from his presentation notes and materials.

Lumbar spine stability is an important concept in orthopedic medicine because its absence is often identified as the cause of lower back pain. When the lumbar spine is insufficiently stable, the motion between the joints of the lower back is exaggerated and abnormal. A patient with lumbar spine instability will experience lower back pain when the joints of the lumbar spine “wobble” in use rather than transferring forces with the smooth, synchronous movements of a healthy spine.

If lumbar spine instability is identified as the cause in a case of lower back pain, lumbar spine stabilization must be the cure. Too often this simplistic view of the relationship between lumbar spine stability and lower back pain is used as the basis for handing out “core strengthening” exercise instructions as a treatment for lower back pain. Few cases of lower back pain caused by lumbar spine instability are relieved by pre-printed handouts of abdominal and paraspinal, or “core,” strengthening exercises.

While we encourage our patients toward any healthy form of exercise, including those forms that address core strength, we are critical of physical therapists and other health care providers who prescribe pre-printed, generic strengthening exercises to patients suffering from lower back pain. In most cases, these exercises will fail to provide any relief. And unfortunately, the most motivated patients receiving these instructions will succeed in strengthening their abdominal and paraspinal muscles. Greater strength will cause untreated lumbar spine joint wobbling to occur with greater force and velocity, and the patient will feel much worse.

In the maintenance of healthy lumbar spine stability, muscle endurance is more important than muscle strength. Furthermore, muscle endurance, the condition of ligaments, and motor control of the structures supporting the spine must be in balance if lumbar spine stability is to be achieved. Generic muscle strengthening regimes that disregard initial measures of paraspinal and abdominal wall muscle endurance, and do not aim to restore correct, specific, balanced, and sustainable force vector ratios around the lumbar spine will fail to produce measurable improvements and will likely increase the patient’s pain and disability.

At Physical Therapy of Los Gatos, our physical therapists are trained to evaluate lumbar spine instability using effective methods and clinical precision. Measurements taken during the evaluation phase of therapy and at key intervals over the course of treatment include timed isometric holding exercises in right and left “side plank” positions, a sixty degree sit-up position, and the Biering-Sorensen position (pictured). The results of these tests are compared with normative time values determined in research studies and are used to design individualized treatment protocols to restore correct force vector ratios around the lumbar spine. These individualized treatment protocols produce complete and rapid recoveries from lower back pain caused by lumbar instability.

Lumbar Spine Stabilization presentation by Rob Naber to the 2005 Western Occupational Health Conference (765 KB .pdf

Conference Program Abstract (76 KB .pdf download)

Western Occupational Health Conference: Lumbar Active Range of Motion (AROM) Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:24:45 +0000

This entry is adapted from a talk presented by Physical Therapy of Los Gatos principal Rob Naber at the Western Occupational Health Conference 2005, held September, 2005 in Monterey, California:

Active Range of Motion (AROM) refers to the range of motion for a specific movement that a patient can achieve without assistance, such as a measurement of how far the back moves when a patient bends forward to touch his or her toes. The distance or angle between the starting and finishing position is the AROM. A reduction in AROM can impair routine, vocational, and athletic movements and overall functional capability. Restoring AROM following injury, surgery, or the effects of an illness on the musculoskeletal system is often the goal of physical therapy and the principal reason that many patients are referred to physical therapy.

In the past, physical therapists used goniometers to quantify lumbar AROM. Though practical for AROM measurements around knees and shoulders, the goniometer was of of very limited clinical utility as a means of measuring motions of the spine and surrounding joints. Other tools and methods, such as flexible rulers and measuring tapes, suffered from a lack of precision and reference values, and were also of little diagnostic value.

In 1984, Mayer, et al. proposed a method using specific inclinometer measurements to enable quantification of lumbar forward bending AROM and discrimination between the contributions of the hip and spine to the overall motion. In 1986, Keeley, et al. published a follow-up article that validated the reliability of the inclinometer-based technique and presented the reference values needed to make measurements made in the clinic meaningful.

While necessary as components of a complete evaluation, individual inclinometer measurements of lumbar AROM offer little information of clinical value and should not be used to report degrees of impairment. Multiple inclinometer measurements are necessary to determine the effects of the patient’s starting posture and the relative contributions of hip, pelvis, and lumbar joints to forward and backward bending. A patient can present with a normal lumbar AROM but still suffer from a “weak back” and recurring back pain and disability.

Physical therapy to restore a diminished lumbar AROM is not simply a matter of achieving a specific AROM value. A more nuanced therapeutic goal of restoring ideal ratios between the contributions of involved joints to composite lumbar motions will lead to more rapid and sustained reductions in impairment and more complete and satisfying recoveries.

Lumbar Spine Active Range of Motion: Significance and Relevance in Rehabilitation presentation by Rob Naber to the Western Occupational Health Conference 2005
Western Occupational Health Conference 2005: New Horizons in Occupational Medicine

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Tennis Elbow (“But I Don’t Play Tennis!”) Thu, 24 Dec 2009 19:24:30 +0000

Tennis elbow, also known as “lateral epicondylitis,” often affects active adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years, and causes pain on the outside of the elbow joint where the forearm meets the elbow. Internally, tennis elbow pain is localized where the muscles of the forearm merge into tendons and attach to end of the upper arm bone. A patient with tennis elbow will typically feel pain upon extending (unbending) the wrist (think of the wrist motion required to rev a motorcycle). As an aid to evaluation, a therapist can reproduce the pain by resisting the patient’s wrist motion. Sometimes tennis elbow can be so painful that the patient cannot raise his or her hand, even when no resistance is applied.

Although the condition is known by two names, neither is very accurate. You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow! In addition to the high tensile stresses of the backhand tennis stroke, any other activity involving a firm grip, such as using a hammer or screwdriver, or heavy lifting, such as lifting suitcases away from the body with the palm facing the ground, can cause tennis elbow. And the “-itis” suffix of the name “lateral epicondylitis” signifies that the condition is characterized by inflammation, which is not the case. Factors normally associated with inflammation, such as certain white blood cells, cytokines, and chemokines, are not found at the site of the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. What surgeons do find, however, upon opening and examining an affected elbow, is disorganized connective tissue in the form of a characteristic yellow-brown scar. By contrast, healthy tendon tissue is glistening white and is composed of cells organized in neat rows along the axis of tension between the muscles of the forearm and the lateral epicondyle of the elbow.

Palliative measures for tennis elbow include rest and anti-inflammatory medication. Tennis elbow patients are also sometimes instructed to use a tight band around the upper forearm to help rest the painful area and protect it from damaging tensile loads. Although these measures are effective at reducing pain while they are used, they rarely result in full recovery, because they do not restore proper connective tissue alignment.

Fortunately, there are more effective measures. Twenty years ago, exercise physiologists discovered that eccentric exercise is a necessary component of rehabilitation from tendinitis. Eccentric exercise occurs when a muscle generates tension as it is lengthening. For instance, when you place a coffee cup down on a table, you are performing eccentric exercise: your biceps muscles must lengthen in a controlled manner to lower your forearm and place the cup down gently. You may think of eccentric exercise as the braking force needed to slow down the motion. The opposite of eccentric exercise is concentric exercise, which involves active muscle shortening.

Although the exact way in which eccentric exercise improves tendinitis is not known, researchers have discovered that muscle elasticity is a key feature of eccentric muscle contraction, and that eccentric exercise increases muscle elasticity. The leading hypothesis is that muscle tissues that have been made elastic by eccentric exercise effectively distribute and absorb forces that would otherwise lead to fraying of the tendon, formation of disorganized scar tissue, and tennis elbow pain.

At Physical Therapy of Los Gatos, treatment for tennis elbow begins with a thorough evaluation of the problem and a discussion of the patient’s rehabilitation goals. Movements associated with the activities that cause tennis elbow pain must be identified and analyzed. If the patient began having tennis elbow pain after playing tennis on rainy days, perhaps he or she needs only a short course of treatment and to stop hitting wet, heavy tennis balls. In other cases, we may find that improper use or involvement of the neck, shoulder, or wrist during sports or other activities has caused excessive loading of the elbow. In these cases, therapy includes instruction and retraining to balance the physical forces required for the chosen activity correctly.

However, regardless of the other required elements of effective treatment, rehabilitation of tennis elbow will include progressive, eccentric muscle training. Eccentric muscle rehabilitation involves using wrist motion to lower a weight over the edge of a table while the forearm is supported. The patient uses his or her forearm muscles to raise the weight and then lower the weight in a controlled manner. The greatest eccentric muscle force occurs when the patient changes the weight’s direction of motion from downward to upward. Therefore, the amount of weight and the speed at which the weight is moved downward and upward can be varied to increase or decrease the intensity of training. As training progresses, the amount of weight and the speed of weighted movements are both increased. Effective eccentric muscle rehabilitation can also be accomplished using elastic resistance bands.

When going over the instructions for eccentric muscle training, patients might be surprised to hear that their tennis elbow pain should increase towards the end of each exercise session. This is a case where “no pain, no gain” applies. Insufficient loading of the tendon (inadequate intensity) or loading along the wrong axis, will delay recovery.

Progressive, eccentric muscle training is the only type of exercise known to increase muscle elasticity and tendon strength and is the process by which disorganized connective tissues associated with tennis elbow pain are remodeled to become functional once again. In the treatment of tennis elbow, progressive eccentric muscle training as prescribed by a qualified physical therapist is a reliable and effective means of achieving specific recovery goals. The precise method, intensity, frequency, and duration of eccentric muscle training must match the recovery goals of each patient, allowing the tennis player to return to playing tennis and getting the carpenter back to work swinging a hammer without pain.