The Ultimate Guide To Tennis Elbow
If you follow sports, you might have heard about the tennis elbow injury. While the injury has the word ‘tennis’ in its name, it could happen to anybody, even the people who have nothing to do with any sport.
In this article, we’ll take you through all the aspects of lateral epicondylitis aka tennis elbow injury. Read on and you’ll know the causes, risk factors, symptoms and how you could self-diagnose and prevent the injury.
The pain of the tennis elbow is focused on the outside of the arm, where your forearm meets your elbow. The injury is concerned with muscles and tendons in your forearms. Confused what tendons are? They connect the muscles to the bones.
When you perform repetitive motions, the tendons at the elbow end of a certain muscle – the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle – might develop small tears. The tears lead to inflammation and cause stress and pain in the rest of your arm.
The tennis elbow can make gripping and lifting things painful. Although it’s a common injury that usually heals with minor treatment and rest, it can become chronic and may take longer to recover from if let untreated.
Tennis elbow affects nearly 3% of the total population which majorly constitutes people between 30 and 50 years of age. Fun fact – of all the registered tennis elbow cases, only 5% are linked to actually playing tennis.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
So, with all this said, how does a tennis elbow occur? If you play tennis, you’ll know that hitting a backhand puts stress on your forearms. The more backhands you hit, the more your forearm muscles will contract, and you’ll be at greater odds of getting a tennis elbow.
On top of it, if you have poor technique or grip the racquet too tightly, the stress in the tendons which connect the forearm muscles to the elbows might increase. With time, the tendons will start to develop small tears.
As we said earlier, you don’t have to be a tennis player to get a tennis elbow. You can get it from other racquet games like squash or racquetball or sports where you have to grip a bat – like in baseball and cricket.
Carpentry, tree-cutting, painting, playing a music instrument – you get the point – are jobs and activities which require repetitive arm motions and can lead to a tennis elbow. Cooks, butchers, assembly line workers are among the people who get tennis elbow often.
The Golfer’s Elbow
Since this is the ultimate guide to tennis elbow, let’s touch upon the sister injury called the golfer’s elbow. Tennis elbow is an orthodox repetitive stress injury that is caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons. The muscle and tendon tears in the elbows have become so common that there’s a version golfer get called the golfer’s elbow.
There is a slight difference between tennis and golfer’s elbow. While the pain in the tennis elbow is concentrated on the outside of the arm, people with golfer’s elbow complain of an ache that is focused on the inside of the elbow.
We think you get the idea now – if you do a lot of repetitive arm movement, whether you play tennis, golf, lift weights or shake too many hands a day for that matter, you’re at risk of getting tennis elbow. But is it something to worry about?
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Should it be a cause of worry if you feel a little pain in your elbow area? The most common symptom of a tennis elbow is an ache on the outside of the elbow. You should consider seeing a doctor if the ache turns into chronic pain over a few weeks.
In cases of a tennis/golfer’s elbow, the outside of your elbow can become too painful to touch. If left untreated, you might find it difficult and painful to lift or grip things. Tennis elbow can sometimes affect both your arms if you’re equally active with them.
Your doctor may check for a tennis elbow by asking you to do simple actions like straightening your wrist against pressure and checking for pain in parts of your arm. Upon verifying a tennis elbow through the symptoms mentioned above, the doctor might also order an MRI scan for you.
The tennis elbow can usually be treated with ice packs, exercise, physical therapy, and medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. If everything else fails, surgery would be the last option. The recovery times for the tennis elbow rehabilitation depends on the stage of the muscle and tendon tears, and when its diagnosed.
Since this injury doesn’t usually heal on its own, we would recommend seeing a doctor as soon as you suspect a tennis elbow to minimize the damage done to your muscles and tendons. And once the injury has been healed, you should consider taking precautionary measures so that it doesn’t happen again.
Best Tennis Elbow Recovery Kit
The adage “prevention is better than cure” rings true for tennis elbow. There are many tennis elbow support bands available on the market which takes the tension off your forearm muscles and tendons when you perform repetitive tasks.
These gear are a must for people whose jobs involve repetitive arm movements. You should warm-up and stretch out your muscles before performing tasks that require repetitive motions to reduce the chances of an injury.
Using lightweight tools with large grips should help avoid putting excess stress on your tendons. If you’re not already suffering from a tennis elbow, you should regularly train your forearms to build strength and muscles. Keeping the forearm muscles active can help prevent the tennis elbow.
The last tip in the ultimate guide to tennis elbow is that if you play a sport or are in a profession that requires repetitive arm, wrist, and elbow movement, you should seek coaching advice to help improve your technique as it can help you avoid getting a tennis elbow. Having a professional analyze your arm movement and recommend improvements can help in eliminating unnecessary tension from your muscles, tendons, and joints.