Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is often the cause of discomfort and pain that radiates from the elbow down to the forearm and the wrist. While tennis elbow is one of the most common injuries of its namesake sport, it can affect a number of athletes in different sports as well as non-athletes who engage in repetitive elbow activities.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
It occurs when the extensor tendon, the tendon that attaches the outside of the elbow to the forearm, becomes inflamed. It is frequently blamed on overexertion and repetitive use of the muscles and joints around the elbow, like lobbing a tennis ball, but the condition can also be caused by severe trauma or a sudden and forceful pull to the region.
If It Is Not Just Tennis Players, Who Else Is at Risk?
While tennis elbow is more common with tennis players, particularly those with a poor backhand technique, but it can happen to almost anyone. Swimmers, climbers, golfers, basketball players, and anyone who plays a sport that frequently utilizes the arms are all at risk for it, particularly if they have had an elbow injury before. However, even non-athletic, repetitive activities like manual labor, gardening, sweeping, and scrubbing can result in this injury.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow Include:
Elbow and forearm stiffness in the morning
Pain when gripping, such as when shaking hands
Pain when engaging in wrist movements and extensions such as turning doorknobs
Tenderness in the elbow
While these symptoms may be just slightly uncomfortable, the real pain of tennis elbow occurs when moving the wrist or elbow with some force behind it. For this reason, lateral epicondylitis is near debilitating for tennis players while generally just a small nuisance for other athletes and non-athletes. However, even if ignored by those who engage in sports other than tennis, the pain of the injury will gradually spread down from the elbow until it becomes painful to do much with that afflicted arm.
As with many injuries, the best medicine for minor tennis elbow is rest. Not allowing the injury to rest will only exacerbate it further, causing more pain and ultimately taking more time to heal. However, this means not only taking time off for your sport, but avoiding activities that may aggravate it further which includes anything repetitive or forceful to the wrist or elbow. However, as athletes go about their normal daily routine, this may prove difficult. Braces or compression sleeves may be helpful in order to prevent extra motion that can further irritate the injury.
For tenderness and any swelling, ice should be applied to help with the pain, but a doctor or physical therapist should be consulted to make sure the injury is indeed tennis elbow and not something worse. For particularly bad inflammation, cortisone injections may be recommended.
As tennis elbow begins to heal, athletes should start with some light exercises to help loosen the area after its time spent healing. As the injury becomes fully healed, stretching and strengthening exercises recommended by your physical therapist should be done to help strengthen the forearm and stop this injury from happening again.
As athletes know, once an injury occurs, it becomes much more likely that it will happen again. Compression sleeves and specifically made tennis elbow braces can keep that from happening. These braces can help support the extensor muscles during tough training, but it is important to also work to actively train the muscles in the area so they remain both strong and flexible.
Looking to stop suffering from tennis elbow? Whether you play tennis or just another sport that actively uses the area, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about the injury and what supports you can utilize to stop the pain and get back to your training.