By: Jon Stiffler, PTA, Sports Center Director
Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as “tennis elbow,” often affects tennis athletes and other athletes requiring the use of a racket. However, anyone performing repetitive motions with their arm(s) from day-to-day may develop “tennis elbow.” Often we are asked, "what causes tennis elbow?" The cause of this pain is most commonly due to the repetitive, forceful swinging that the sport requires. These repetitive motions place a lot of stress on the forearms, and over time may cause tears in the tendons that connect those muscles to the bony outer edge of your elbow. This in turn leads to increased pain and inflammation.
Tennis Elbow usually affects individuals between the ages of thirty and fifty years old. Other risk factors include, but are not limited to:
Symptoms of tennis elbow include elbow pain that increases with activity, forearm and/or wrist pain, and loss of grip strength.
Prevention is the key for avoiding tennis elbow. It is important to practice good form, have proper gear, and to keep your muscles and bones strong and healthy. If your job is physically demanding, make sure you are taking time to warm-up and stretch. Ensure that you are working in an ergonomically sound environment to minimize chances for injury. In addition, becoming more aware of your movements may help you feel better. Arm movements that are harsh and forceful, like in tennis, can irritate your elbow. Constant twisting of your wrist does, too. Manual laborers, butchers, carpenters, and plumbers, are all at risk. Even a job requiring constant use of a computer can be a contributing factor to tennis elbow; particularly in your mouse hand. After analyzing your day-to-day motions, identify the troublesome motion and make sure you’re performing it in such a way that reduces stress on your wrist and elbow.
For tennis players, it is important to make sure you have the correct racket and the correct grip size. Many tennis players switch racket or change the string tension and develop tennis elbow symptoms.
A good conditioning program and wrist, elbow and shoulder strengthening can certainly decrease the risk of getting tennis elbow. You can also read more about tennis elbow in this ARTICLE.
The main tennis elbow symptom is an ache or pain over the lateral or outside part of your elbow. This boney area is very tender to touch or palpation. The pain usually increasing while you are playing but is worse the morning after playing.
Initial symptoms of tennis elbow are best treated with R.I.C.E.
This can help reduce inflammation and pain. Ice for around twenty minutes several times a day and be sure to wrap your ice in a wash cloth or towel before placing it on your skin. Some patients get relief from wearing a tennis elbow strap. However, these can only be worn for short periods of time. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can also help with pain relief.
Tennis elbow usually resolves on its own over time. Persistent cases or those causing moderate-severe pain should be assessed by a medical professional. Doctors can provide a physical therapy prescription, an elbow strap to help alleviate symptoms, or injections to help with pain/relief or rate of healing. A certified physical therapist or athletic trainer can teach you exercises to strengthen your injured muscle groups and can also perform a movement analysis to determine what motions led to your injury. From there, these professionals can show you proper form, reducing your chances of re-injury. If you explore all avenues of treatment without much improvement, surgical repair may be warranted. But before surgery is done, a recent advancement in medical laser may help relieve your pain. JOI has 3 Treatment Lasers in the Jacksonville area. (Beaches, San Marco and South).
Braces for tennis elbow have made significant advancements in recent years. To learn more about tennis elbow braces, please read this ARTICLE.
Tennis elbow can often be aggravated by other activities such as working on your computer. Ergonomics can play a key role in decreasing the stress on the lateral elbow. Many people who have to use a computer can aggravate this condition by the use of a regular computer mouse. An easy way to get rid of tennis elbow is to get a different mouse. Excessive right clicking can cause pain over the lateral epicondyle. You may want to try a vertical mouse instead. The change in the position of your hand on the vertical mouse may reduce wrist extension and the torque being placed on the a tendon.
Click to Learn 6 Effective Ways to Treat Elbow Tendonitis.
So, one way to get rid of tennis elbow is to stretch!
Forearm extensor stretch: Extend your arm out in front of you, palm down, and use your other hand to gently push the back of the extended hand back toward you while keeping your arm at the same level. Hold for thirty seconds and repeat three times.
Another way to get rid of tennis elbow is to strengthen the muscles which are weak!
Wrist lift: Grab a can of soup or a one-pound weight and sit down at a table. Hold your chosen weighted object and place your forearm on the table, palm down, then lift the object by only raising your hand and wrist. Keep your arm stationary. Hold a couple seconds, slowly bring your wrist back down to the table, and repeat fifteen times. This can also be done with your palm facing up.
Ball squeeze: With your arm bent and palm up, hold a small rubber ball in your hand, and squeeze it for ten minutes or until fatigued. Repeat three times a day.
At the JOI Sport Center, we have programs to treat tennis elbow and work with tennis players to return them back to the sport that they love. JOI also has Tennis Management and Performance Services under the guidance of Dr. Michael Yorio. Dr. Yorio is board-certified in Internal Medicine and has a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine. Dr. Yorio has served as the Director of Player Medical Services for the US Open Tennis Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York. To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.
If you want to learn more about tennis elbow, go to Tennis Tips.
To schedule an appointment for tennis elbow, please call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online or click below.