21 October, 2021

Dealing with Tennis Elbow

3 min read

In addition to effecting tennis players, tennis elbow effect’s a great number of people who are involved in activities outside of the sport of tennis. Tennis elbow also known as lateral Epicondylitis is caused by damaging the tendon of the extensor muscles in the forearm. The tendon of these extensor muscles connects to the lateral epicondyle of the upper arm bone called the humerus.  

When the muscles are overused or exposed to a force they can not withstand the tendon will become damaged. The damaged tendon will then become inflamed and cause soreness and/or pain in the lateral elbow area.

Common causes for Tennis Elbow when playing tennis:

  • lack of forearm strength
  • lack of flexibility 
  • poor backhand technique
  • racquet is too heavy for the player
  • racquet grip is too large for the player
  • improper warm up and/or stretching

Other activities that have been linked to Tennis Elbow outside of the sport of tennis:

  • sports that involve throwing
  • repetitive use of scissors, pliers, shears
  • Manuel occupations that involve lifting with the wrist such as metal workers, plumbers, painters, and mason workers.

The effects of tennis elbow can come on abruptly from a sudden blow or slowly from chronic overuse. It is important to treat the area before the symptoms progress to a level of constant pain. The symptoms of tennis elbow include elbow pain sometimes with stiffness and or pulsing in the elbow. The illustration below shows the common extensor tendon and the lateral epicondyle that it attaches to.      

Tennis elbow can be treated a number of different ways depending on the severity on damage that has been done to the tendon.

Treatment:

Step 1: Rest the elbow joint and the forearm muscle attached to the damaged tendon whenever possible to allow the healing process to take place. Rest the arm in a straight position.

Step 2: Find the muscle that is attached to the damaged tendon (extensor muscles). It is located on the outside of the forearm just above the bone and is seen in the diagram above.

(NEVER PRESS or MASSAGE the INJURED TENDON)

Step 3: Massage the extensor muscles (not the tendon) attached to the damaged tendon. Massaging the muscle will cause it to relax and release pressure off of the tendon.

Step 4: Place an Ice Pack (bag of frozen peas, ziploc bag of ice with a little water added / double bag it) on the injured tendon area.  Cut off an old shirt sleeve and slide it onto your elbow between the skin and ice pack to avoid frost damage. Elevating your elbow above the heart will help reduce inflammation. Keep the ice pack on the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes up to 3 times a day if possible. Even one time a day will help. Allow at least 2 hour between each icing.

The goal is to relieve the pressure on the muscle and reduce the inflammation which will allow the healing process to run its course.

Other options:

  • Ibuprofen will also help reduce inflammation and reduce pain but it is not a good idea to take large consistent dosages. Use Ibuprofen only to aid other treatments.
  • Your doctor may recommend ultra-sound therapy. Ultra-sound therapy uses painless high frequency sound waves applied to the skin to improve blood flow in the area and speed up the healing process.
  • If the treatments above do not work you can ask your doctor about Cortisone shots. Cortisone is a more powerful anti-inflammatory. Three shots would be the maximum you would probably need if it came to this.  That will give you a few months of relief to allow the healing process to run its course.

If you would like more information about this article and article subjects similar to this one, please e-mail me at craig@fitnessprogramsplus.com or visit us at www.fitnessprogramsplus.com .By Craig LePage, CSCS, NASM-CPT, President of FitnessProgramsPlus.com

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