Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a type of overuse injury that occurs when the tendons in the elbow are strained repeatedly.
This condition is common among people who play sports that involve repetitive arm motions, such as tennis, hence the name "tennis elbow." It can also be caused by other activities such as gardening, using a computer mouse, typing for prolonged periods, and heavy lifting.
Tennis elbow affects the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle, which is a bony bump on the outside of the elbow. Overuse or strain of these tendons can cause pain, stiffness, and weakness in the elbow and forearm. The condition is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50, and it affects both men and women equally.
How To Prevent Tennis Elbow
If you play tennis or other sports that involve repetitive arm motions, make sure to use proper technique to reduce the strain on your elbow. It is also important to use the right equipment that is suited to your level of play and your body type. Using equipment that is too heavy or too light can increase the risk of injury.
Stretching exercises that target the muscles and tendons in your forearm and elbow can help to warm up the muscles, reduce the risk of injury, and promote better flexibility and range of motion. Exercises, such as wrist curls and forearm extensions, can help to build up the muscles in the forearm, reducing the strain on the tendons and preventing injury.
Avoid overdoing the exercise, however. Taking regular breaks during activities will allow your muscles time to rest and recover between workouts.
If you experience any pain or discomfort in your elbow or forearm, seek medical attention early to avoid aggravating the condition.
How Will I Know If I Have Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is often associated with pain or tenderness on the outside of the elbow that may radiate down the forearm. You might have difficulty moving your elbow or wrist and your forearm might become weak, making everyday activities like gripping difficult.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consult a healthcare professional. Your doctor may perform a physical examination and order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to help diagnose your condition.
I Think I Might Have Tennis Elbow, What Do I Do Now?
If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, and you suspect you might have tennis elbow, it would be best to cease doing activities that put a strain on the affected tendons. Resting the elbow may also allow time for the inflammation to subside and the tendons to heal.
Applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Wrap a cold pack or a bag of ice in a towel and apply it to the elbow for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, throughout the day. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can also help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
A physical therapist can provide exercises to help strengthen the forearm muscles and reduce strain on the affected tendons. They can also provide advice on proper technique and equipment to help prevent future injury. Contact your doctor if the pain persists, or if you start experiencing weakness or a loss of grip strength.
Exercising With Tennis Elbow
If you cannot avoid exercising with tennis elbow, there are some steps you can take to ensure that the condition is not aggravated further. Here are some Do’s and Don’t of exercising with tennis elbow.
- Incorporate stretching exercises that target the muscles and tendons in your forearm and elbow before and after exercise.
- Begin with gentle strengthening exercises, such as wrist curls and forearm extensions, that gradually build up the muscles in the forearm without causing further injury.
- Engage in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, that do not put excessive strain on the elbow.
- Use properly fitted equipment, such as racquets or tools, that match your skill level and body type. Make sure the equipment is in good condition and has appropriate grip size and weight.
- Consult with a physical therapist, who can provide exercises and guidance to help strengthen the forearm muscles and reduce strain on the affected tendons.
- Seek medical attention early and avoid aggravating the condition.
- Push through the pain or continue exercising if it causes discomfort or exacerbates symptoms.
- Overuse the affected arm or engage in activities that cause pain or discomfort.
- Lift heavy weights or engage in high-impact exercises, such as weightlifting or boxing, that can put excessive strain on the elbow.
- Ignore pain, stiffness, or weakness in the elbow or forearm
Exercising With Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow can be caused by repetitive arm motions in sports such as tennis, as well as other activities such as gardening, typing, and heavy lifting. Proper technique, appropriate equipment, stretching exercises, and strengthening exercises can help prevent tennis elbow. If you suspect that you have tennis elbow, seek medical attention early to avoid aggravating the condition.
Exercising with tennis elbow should be done carefully, with proper guidance from a physical therapist. It is best to avoid activities that cause pain or discomfort to allow your elbow to heal. Remember to listen to your body and avoid pushing through the pain to prevent further injury.