The Definition of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, can affect tennis players as well as people who have never before played tennis. The name simply refers to the type of injury that typically ails tennis players. When a person has tennis elbow, there is generally quite a bit of pain and discomfort associated with it because the person has inflammation in the elbow, and the person could have torn or stressed tendons as well. The area that is affected is generally the tendon that adheres to the bony part of the elbow located on the outer side of the arm.
Another form of epicondylitis is golfers elbow. Medial epicondylitis is the same injury, but the affected area is on the inside of the elbow instead of the outer area. While golfers are typically the most common people afflicted with golfer’s elbow, it is not uncommon to see people who have never picked up a club suffering from the injury.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is generally cause by repetitive stress to the elbow, but there is more to it than that. From overuse to stress to age, there are many factors that play into the causes of this ailment. If a person is over the age of 35, he/she is more likely to get tennis elbow. If someone plays (or strains the area in other ways) three or more times per week, the person is more likely to be diagnosed with it. Other key factors include lack of flexibility and strength, poor technique, off center hits and holding the arm incorrectly during maneuvers. Another factor to keep in mind is that if a person repeatedly uses the arm, the vibrations travel throughout the arm and muscles. The constant friction and work can cause inflammation and sometimes even degeneration.
According to Sue Falsone, director of performance physical therapy at Athlete’s Performance, a person continually having tendonitis will eventually be diagnosed with tendonosis. Tendonosis is when the inflammation ceases, anti-inflammatories no longer work, the arm is still in pain and the tendon tissue starts to break down. At this stage, it is sometimes necessary to go through a surgical procedure.
Mark Verstegen’s take on Tennis Elbow
Mark Verstegen is president and founder of Athlete’s Performance. According to Verstegen, most tennis elbow injuries are acquired from overusing without proper recovering. He says that another key factor is “related movement pattern dysfunction” because the arm strains the muscles in that same pattern over and over again. According to Verstegen, the best way to correct the issue is with preparation, proper training and pattern corrections.
Consider the Numbers
- Three is the minimum number of times per week that a person who has been diagnosed with tennis elbow typically plays tennis.
- People who are age 35 and over are more likely and most often affected by tennis elbow.
- Approximately 50% of tennis players get tennis elbow.
Those at Risk of getting Tennis Elbow
Contrary to popular belief, tennis elbow does not affect only athletes. While football players, golfers and racquet sport players are the most common types of people, the injury is found in other industries as well. Anyone who pulls, reaches, lifts or pushes on a regular basis can sustain the injury. This injury is not biased to a specific field or type.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
There are several symptoms that a person can have with tennis elbow. For more severe cases, there will be pain that is felt when lifting even the most light-weight item (such as a comb). The pain will be in the wrist and when your arm is extended. Sometimes, there will be pain that travels up and down your forearm, but it is not guaranteed that every person will have this particular pain. The most common sign is a sharp pain that is located on the outer elbow, but it feels different than a scrape. Sometimes there will also be pain to the touch and a loss of strength and grip. If a person is suffering one or more of these symptoms, it is recommended that the person treats the injury.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
If you have any of the symptoms that have been described, or if you believe that you have tennis elbow, you should take certain measures to treat it. Taking a break from tennis or whatever is causing the ailment is the most important step. If you take a break, you will allow your arm to heal more efficiently and quickly. The next step is to ice the injury. You need to put ice on it several times per day in 20 minute increments. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories will also help, but always use them as directed. Use a brace or bandage to apply pressure away from the elbow in between icing it. If the pain continues for several days, you want to see a physician.
Tennis Elbow Exercises
There are several exercises that you can do to strengthen the elbow after an injury. Some exercises include the wrist flexion stretch, the wrist extension stretch and a massage stick. The wrist flexion stretch and the wrist extension stretch consist of stretching the top of your arm so that the muscles begin to work themselves back out.
The most important thing to remember is that avoiding tennis elbow is the best way to ensure that you will not have to undergo rehabilitation or surgery. Working with professionals, stretching and knowing when your body has had enough are key elements in keeping your elbows safe and sound.