We’ve joined the dreaded tennis elbow club this month, and we’re not alone with an estimated half of all players developing the painful condition at some point
Well it’s been another wet April, but if you’re like us here at Birmingham Living towers it hasn’t stopped you playing tennis. And like us you may be regretting it as damp courts and heavy tennis balls may have led to an uncomfortable pain in your arm. If so, you may be among the estimated 50 per cent of players who may have developed the dreaded tennis elbow. Here’s some timely advice to help minimise the pain!
Tennis elbow is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow. It’s clinically known as lateral epicondylitis and it’s a really painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. If the muscles are strained, tiny tears and inflammation can develop near the bony lump (the lateral epicondyle) on the outside of your elbow.
Despite its name, athletes aren’t the only people who develop tennis elbow and any activity that puts repeated stress on the elbow joint can cause it.
You may notice pain on the outside of the elbow, which may travel down the forearm when lifting or bending your arm. Pain and weakness may make it difficult to shake hands or grip an object, turn a doorknob or open a jar, hold a cup of tea or pick up a kettle. You may also find it difficult to fully extend your arm.
Firstly, you should avoid the activity that is causing the pain until your symptoms improve. If the pain in your elbow does not go away after a few days of rest, it’s probably best to visit a GP. The GP will check for swelling and tenderness and carry out some simple tests, such as stretching out your fingers and flexing your wrist while your elbow is stretched out. If the GP thinks the pain is due to nerve damage, further tests, such as an ultrasound scan or an MRI scan, may be done.
Tennis elbow will often improve without treatment, but there are things you can do that may improve symptoms and speed up recovery.
Holding a cold compress, such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, against your elbow for a few minutes several times a day can help ease the pain. Taking painkillers, such as paracetamol, may help reduce mild pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can also be used to help reduce inflammation.
Physiotherapy can also really help with some specific exercises and stretches to work on. Massaging and manipulating the affected area may help relieve the pain and stiffness and improve the range of movement in your arm.
If symptoms are very painful and persistent, your GP may recommend a steroid injection although this may lead to a weakening on the tendon. Surgery may be used as a last resort to remove the damaged part of the tendon.
The bad news is that the condition can last from between six months to two years (although 90 per cent will make a full recovery within a year). And once you’ve had it once, you may always be susceptible. There’s lots you can do to help avoid a repeat offence.
Physical therapists commonly advise that racquet sports players strengthen their shoulder, upper arm, and abdominal muscles. This can help to reduce the wrist extensors during shoulder and arm movements. Work on changing and improving your technique may ease the problem.
Use a lighter racquet and a bigger grip size can help avoid putting extra strain on your tendons. String tension can affect the forces that pass across the elbow. A high-tension offers more control but passes more forces through the elbow. You may want to try lowering your string tension a little and even try special strings.
Strapping or taping the forearm can support the area and help realign the muscle fibres and relieve pressure on the area.
Good luck with the rehab and hopefully you’ll be fine and dandy for the summer….