Tennis Elbow; Caution, Prevention, and Treatment Guide

Tennis Elbow; Caution, Prevention, and Treatment Guide

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Playing a sport is one of the most thrilling and energising experiences. It helps increase your focus, improve your physical movement, and clears your mind effectively. A sport such as tennis is rejuvenating, helps in releasing endorphins, and improves your mental health while also reducing stress. 

However, if you’re not careful, tennis may also have a negative impact on your health. Due to the repetitive movement of your hand muscles, you may experience a painful condition called tennis elbow. 

Otherwise known as ‘lateral epicondylitis’, tennis elbow is a kind of tendonitis that develops from the overuse and inflammation of the muscles between the wrist and elbow. Because of the nature of their tennis racquets, it is most commonly seen in tennis players. 

However, it is not a rare phenomenon in non-athletes either. A person may develop a tennis elbow due to non-tennis-related repetitive movement in their arms as well. It can also affect people other than athletes, such as plumbers, carpenters, butchers, and painters. 

Anyone at any age may experience symptoms of a tennis elbow, but adults between the ages of 30 and 50 are more susceptible to it. It is important to play tennis or carry out other activities with complete care so you can successfully curb the pain of a tennis elbow. 

This can be done by understanding the symptoms of a tennis elbow, and what causes such pain.


Symptoms of a tennis elbow

The pain from a tennis elbow starts off gradually. It may begin as a mild ache, slowly becoming more painful and worse over the course of several weeks or months. While it is generally focused on your elbow, the pain can spread up to your lower or upper arm as well.

If you wish to understand whether you’re experiencing tennis elbow pain, look for these symptoms:

  • You may experience burning, pain, or a dull ache along the outside of the forearm and elbow. This pain may also radiate into your wrist. 
  • The pain gets worse with increased forearm activity. 
  • You may have a painful or weakened grip on objects. 
  • You’ll experience pain while performing regular tasks, such as holding a coffee cup, turning a doorknob, shaking hands.
  • With tennis elbow pain, your elbow also becomes too painful to touch.


Tennis elbow causes

As mentioned earlier, repetitive movement of your forearm muscles causes a tennis elbow. Oftentimes, this movement is incorrect. 

Tennis elbow primarily hurts where your forearm muscles' tendons join a bony bump on the outside of your elbow. The repetitive motion leads to overuse of the muscles, causing strain on the tendons and eventually leading to microtears in the tissues.

These tears result in inflammation and pain in the forearm, otherwise known as tennis elbow. If left untreated, tennis elbow pain can turn chronic and become a debilitating injury. The following repetitive activities are the potential causes of a tennis elbow:

  • Tennis 
  • Badminton
  • Weight lifting
  • Golf
  • Typing
  • Painting
  • Knitting

Tennis elbow treatments

Normally, tennis elbow gets better on its own. There are only a few things you must keep in mind to ensure the condition doesn’t worsen. In case over-the-counter painkillers aren’t working, the following treatments can be used to treat a tennis elbow:

  1. Icing the elbow

    Injuries like tennis elbow are characterised by inflammation, which causes discomfort, swelling, burning, and redness. Applying ice is one of the most typical techniques to relieve inflammation. It reduces swelling by numbing the discomfort and constricting the blood vessels. 

    Icing the elbow is the easiest and most cost-effective way to control inflammation and reduce pain and swelling. So, it is necessary to ice your elbow for at least 15–20 minutes 3 to 4 times a day also, know about the difference between ice and heat therapy.

  2. Using a tennis elbow brace or strap

    Using an elbow brace will not only provide elbow support for pain relief, it will also reduce the stress you place on your elbow and muscles. This lets you effectively carry out daily activities without straining your muscles and worsening the situation at hand.

    An effective tennis elbow brace will provide relief from general pain and tenderness in your forearm and elbow.

  3. Physical therapy

    Another method of treatment is visiting the therapist and having them evaluate your movement techniques. This will show you what you’re doing wrong to cause such pain and provide an alternative that doesn’t cause as much stress at the same time. This is the best option if your injuries are sports-related. 

    From regular warm-up exercises to ultrasound therapy, the advice of an expert will work wonders for your tennis elbow pain! 

  4. Motion exercises

    Once the inflammation and irritation of the muscles subsides, you can begin gentle movements of your wrist and forearms to strengthen the muscles and prevent another tennis elbow. 

    Most motion exercises are gentle stretches, focusing on your wrist and fingers. They work by slowly taking the pressure off the tendons attached at the elbow, giving room to heal.

  5. Temporary injections & surgery

    If despite the application of all treatments, the pain won’t subside, your doctor may suggest surgery. They may also suggest injecting platelet-rich plasma, Botox, or any other anti-inflammatory into the tendon to decrease pain.

    These steps are normally taken if the pain doesn’t subside after 6-12 months of extensive treatment.

Exercises to relieve tennis elbow pain

While these exercises help strengthen the muscles and prevent tennis elbows, it is advised to first check with your doctor when you’re ready to do these exercises:

1. Supination with a dumbbell

  • Sit in a chair, holding a 2-pound dumbbell vertically in your hand. 
  • With your elbow resting on your knee, rotate your arm outward, turning your palm up and then rotate it back downward. 
  • Repeat this 20 times while keeping your upper arm and elbow still.

The supinator is a large muscle of your forearm that attaches to your elbow. The muscle is responsible for turning your palm up. It is recommended to practise isometric supination without weights before doing this exercise.


2. Fist clench

Sit at a table with your forearm resting on the surface. 

Hold a rolled-up towel in your hand. 

Squeeze the towel and hold for 10 seconds, then repeat the motion again. 

A weak grip is a common symptom of tennis elbow, this exercise helps improve that by strengthening the tendons of the fingers and thumb.


3. Towel twist

  • Relax your shoulders and sit in a chair, holding a towel with both hands. 
  • Next, twist the towel with both hands in the opposite direction at the same time. 
  • Repeat this movement 10 times. 
  • Then, switch directions and repeat the movement another 10 times.  

This helps exercise your finger tendons, wrists, and forearms and strengthen them effectively.


4. Wrist flexion

  • Again, sit in a chair holding a 2-pound dumbbell, palm down. 
  • Extend your wrist by curling it toward your body. 
  • In case this proves to be a challenge, do the movement without weight. 
  • Keep your arm still and repeat the movement 10 times. 

This movement exercises the wrist extensor muscles that join into your elbow and are subjected to overuse most of the time.


5. Wrist extension

  • Face your palm upward and extend your wrist by curling it toward your body. 
  • Repeat this movement 10 times while keeping the rest of your arm still.

The small muscles that connect to your elbow and are often subjected to overuse, causing pain and inflammation. This exercise helps prevent that pain.


How to prevent a tennis elbow

In addition to knowing the different treatments for tennis elbow, it is also important to understand how you can prevent this from happening in the future: 

  1. Warm-up stretches

    Warming up and stretching before pushing yourself into physical activities will get your blood pumping into your muscles, allow them to be more flexible,
    and improve your motion range. This automatically reduces your risk of injury.

  2. Regular exercising 

    Suddenly exposing your muscles to strain and overuse is injurious for you. It is important to keep exercising on a regular basis to keep the muscles active and get your body used to such physical regimens. If you’ve just gotten back after a sabbatical, you should ease into the sport, or train slowly instead of all at once.

  3. Take breaks

    Sports like tennis and badminton that require repeated movements of your arm put a lot of strain on those muscles, resulting in injuries such as a tennis elbow. Taking breaks between matches and training gives the muscles time to cool down.

  4. Avoid repetitive movements

    Adding a cross-training regimen to your routine can help offset repetitive movements. For example, if you’re a tennis player and there’s no way to avoid repeating the same motion over and over, adding cross-training can lessen the strain on those muscles, successfully curbing a tennis elbow.

  5. Use proper equipment & technique

    If you’re a tennis player, perhaps getting your equipment checked would also be a wise precautionary measure. A racquet that is too heavy or too small could be the source of your pain. 

    Moreover, ensuring you’re using the correct technique and form while playing any sport is crucial for your muscle health. You can ensure this by hiring a professional coach.

  6. Use an elbow strap

    An elbow strap provides elbow support and is beneficial for pain relief. It takes off the stress you put on your elbow and forearm muscles and dissipates the pain throughout your forearm.

To sum things up, while playing a sport or doing any other physical activity is beneficial for your overall health, it is vital to make sure you’re using the right technique, and equipment, and taking the necessary measures to avoid injury. 

Now that you know how you can successfully treat and prevent a tennis elbow, you can enjoy playing, painting, or typing without any worries!