Tennis Elbow Anyone?
Has your tennis game gone south due to a nagging, achy elbow? Do you awaken the day following a match with a stiff elbow and groans of empathy from your tennis partners?
If so, you may be suffering from “Lateral Elbow Epicondylitis”. In layperson’s English, this is known around the tennis courts as … groan … “tennis elbow”.
The symptoms of tennis elbow may include any of the following:
● Throbbing, burning pain over the outside of the elbow, traveling down the forearm.
● Elbow stiffness aggravated by tennis, racquetball, or repetitive motions of the wrist, such as the activity of driving screws into wood.
● Difficulty gripping objects.
● Muscle soreness across the outer forearm.
While tennis elbow pain may be a good excuse to challenge your partner to a rematch, it should never be ignored.. Actually, tennis elbow is a degenerative process which begins at the outer portion of the elbow as an acute strain or muscle tear. The problem continues to degenerate with overuse. Continued use may cause the end of the muscle or tendon to pull away from the bone, resulting in swelling and later scarring. Once torn, the tendon will never be as strong as before. So take heed and read on.
Tennis elbow most often is the result of overuse of the wrist, an improper backhand stroke, too large or too small racquet grip or excessive vibration of your racquet.
On the Mend…
A conservative approach to treating tennis elbow is a combination of the use of ice, ultrasound and massage therapy and acupuncture.
After the swelling and the pain are relieved, the patient is started on an exercise program to strengthen the tendons. Begin with isometric exercise (tightening the muscles and holding the position for 15 seconds). Place the wrist, palm down, on the edge of at able and cock the wrist toward yourself. Repeat this exercise 10 times each day, allowing time for the muscles to relax in between exercises.
Perform the same procedure with the palm turned upward. This exercise will help strengthen the muscles on the inside of the forearm, which may become sore with a forehand tennis elbow.
A Dumbbell in the Hand is Worth . . .
Following two weeks of isometric exercises, it is recommended that you switch to an endurance routine for preventive measure. Endurance is developed by contracting the same two groups of muscles, as above, at a rate of one contraction per second for 60 seconds, or until you are tired. A 2-5 pound dumbbell held in the hand will develop even greater endurance, thus reducing the chance of re-injury.
You may return to playing tennis following the two weeks of isometric exercise – but start slowly. Using a tennis elbow brace will prevent you from re-aggravating the problem. Do not use the brace as a continuous crutch. It is suggested the patients begin to wean themselves off the brace as their elbow strengthens.
If you spend 5-10 minutes stretching the muscles of your shoulders, elbow, wrist, and hand before going out to play tennis, you may prevent a recurrence of tennis elbow.
Get a Grip on Your Game . . .
Improper grip size also can cause tennis elbow. Look at the palm of your hand. Notice the lateral creases. The bottom crease, running along the middle portion of the hand is the one you want. Take a ruler and measure from the tip of your ring finger to a point on the crease between the ring and the middle finger to determine your grip in inches.
Your Backhanded Complement . . .
Check your backhand stroke to be sure you are not flicking your wrist. The wrist should remain stable while contracting the tennis ball with your racquet. Also, check with your local sporting goods store or racquet club to make sure your racquet is strung