The tennis season is now, pretty much all year round and you may have been inspired to dust off your racquet or join your local tennis club at some point, and, as with any new sport or activity, you may have noticed a few new niggles!
Now, tennis elbow isn’t just reserved for tennis players of course, it is simply named “tennis elbow” as it can often be experience by tennis players.
Claire Desroches, personal trainer and sports massage therapist at Ealing Fitness Clinic, has written an article on one of the most common injuries that can affect anyone whether they play a racquet sport or not.
So, over to Claire…..
“We have many muscles, tendons and nerves that cross over the elbow joint, and it can sometimes be tricky to determine where the pain is coming from or what structure is affected. Since many of the muscles in this area are responsible for small actions of the hand and wrist, they rarely get a chance to rest, and so are easily overworked. And once one gets tight, others have to overcompensate, so what begins as a small issue can often snowball into significant pain and loss of function.
While it may be tempting to conclude that you have tennis elbow because your elbow hurts, and you play tennis, it is important to get your pain properly diagnosed so you can ensure you are treating the right condition. Golfers have been known to get tennis elbow, and tennis players to develop golfer’s elbow!
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammation (-itis) of the bony prominence (epicondyle) at the “outside” (lateral) of your elbow – this would be the right side on your right elbow, when your palms are facing forward.
Tennis elbow is typically caused by overuse of the forearm muscles, which means it can be brought on by a sudden change or increase in activity – think hitting the tennis courts a few times a week as soon as the weather turns nice. Despite the name, it can be also caused by a number of different activities such as other racquet sports, golf, and some manual labour.
A change in equipment – different racquet or grip – can also put the forearm muscles under extra strain, as can a change in technique or playing style.
Tennis elbow is twice as prevalent in females as in males!
The pain is usually sharp and very localised to the lateral epicondyle, and can be felt during wrist extension (pulling your hand back towards your forearm, like in a press-up position) and forearm supination (turning the palm of your hand up) – both actions that are required for a tennis backhand. Your therapist can isolate and identify this by resisting your wrist or fingers as you try to extend, for example.
There may be some swelling over the lateral epicondyle, and it may feel tender to touch.
X-rays and MRI scans will usually not show any signs of the injury.
Depending on the severity of a particular case, tennis elbow can take anywhere from three weeks to six months to heal.
In any case, relative rest (i.e. avoiding the activities or movements that involve wrist extension or forearm supination) and managing inflammation (with ice and over-the- counter medication) should be the first course of action.
When diagnosing you with lateral epicondylitis, your therapist will take a case history that may highlight the cause; for instance, if you have played tennis regularly for years but the pain developed after changing your racquet, it is worth investigating the size of your grip or weight of your racquet.
If you have recently increased the amount of a particular activity that is thought to have caused your injury, it may be recommended that you strengthen the forearm with specific exercises. By definition, these will be small actions that may feel tedious, but will have a huge impact not only on your recovery time but also on your ability to perform this activity (e.g., your tennis backhand should be stronger as a result of the rehabilitation programme). You may also want to investigate specific coaching for your sport, if it is thought that improper technique could be the cause.
You may also be advised to wear a brace to support the elbow as you return to activity once the inflammation has settled – but this should not replace performing regular rehabilitation exercises and addressing technique.
Your therapist may also recommend some massage through your forearm muscles, to release any tightness that has either led to the injury or been caused by the injury; depending on how long you have been dealing with this issue for, you may also require some massage for the shoulder, neck, and/or upper back due to compensation.
In the longer term, assuming your equipment is appropriate, it may be recommended that you adopt a strengthening programme for other areas of the body that can assist in your sport or activity, so that the relatively small forearm muscles are not doing all the work.
Whatever the cause of your injury, taking the proper steps to treat the condition thoroughly will almost undoubtedly result in you being stronger in your sport or activity once you have healed from it!”
So, if you experience some discomfort and you think it might be tennis elbow, do not hesitate to get in touch with us @ Ealing Fitness Clinic for a consultation with one of our team