Tennis Elbow : Tennis Injuries

The outer part of the elbow consists of the lateral epicondyle bone protrusion above the condyle bone that attaches the muscles and tendons in the elbow joint. The purpose of this bone-muscle extension is to allow for bending of the humerous bone in the upper arm for movement. In the racquet game of tennis, the lateral epicondyle can become inflamed with tenderness or pain or torn in the outer elbow from repeatedly straining the muscles and tendons when gripping the racquet and swinging to hit the tennis ball. This inflammation and pain is what is termed lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

If after a game of tennis, you feel stiffness in the elbow region or pain when using your wrist for activities, such as pouring water, then you may have the start of tennis elbow. Pain may be felt when extending the wrist, twisting your palm, or grasping things in the hand. Soreness may also be felt in the upper arm causing movement of the arm to feel restricted. The pain will be in the arm that you use the most and may start gradually and then become constant pain as you repeatedly use the arm for specific movements. In severe cases, people feel numbness or are unable to bend the elbow joint.

Causes of Tennis Elbow

Repeated overuse of the arm muscles is the main cause of tennis elbow, particularly if you start playing regularly per week when you haven’t played for a long time or before. Besides tennis, it is common for other activities to also cause tennis elbow, such as typing on a computer keyboard, playing a musical instrument, drilling in construction work, or weight lifting for exercise. Being aware of how you perform certain activities when using your arm is key to understanding what can cause tennis elbow.

Medical Treatment of Tennis Elbow

Through physical examination of your arm, and by discussing your physical activities and symptoms, doctors can identify the cause of your pain. Your GP may refer you to a physiotherapist for diagnosis. In some cases an X-ray or ultrasound is required when re-occurrence of tennis elbow prevents healing, and to exclude other causes, such as arthritis.

You can also help yourself by altering the way that you do the exercise, or stopping the movement causing the pain, by wearing a strap or sprint to relieve tension to the muscles and tendons, by applying a cold compress to the painful site, and by giving yourself rest. If the pain abates, you can then resume playing tennis.

Various pain killers can be used to treat tennis elbow depending on the extent of the pain. If the injury is minor, ibupropen or paracetamol may be adequate to ease the pain. Otherwise your local doctor may prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine. When the injury is more severe, doctors sometimes inject the site of tenderness with steroid and local anaesthetic, while referring you to a physiotherapist for other treatments.

Physiotherapists can show you how to improve movement and strength in the arm through exercises. Sometimes physiotherapists provide acupuncture or massage the muscle tissue in the elbow area. Only in cases when the tendon is severely damaged with no improvement after restorative treatments, may your doctor refer you for surgery.

Preventing Tennis Elbow Injury

There are a number of ways to prevent the tennis elbow injury occurring or re-occurring. The first is to stop the activity causing the pain or to adjust the way that you do the exercise, such as how you hold the racquet and swing to strike the ball in tennis. Make sure that you adequately stretch the muscles beforehand to warm-up and perform gentle movements to prevent excessive strain to the arm. Taking frequent breaks to rest the arm is important, especially when playing long games of tennis.

When tenderness is felt in the elbow causing strain, immediately consult your doctor for professional advice particular to your case. Seeing a physiotherapist can help you learn about performing exercises to strengthen the upper arm muscles and tendons that will reduce the chances of tennis elbow injury. Receiving specialist tennis sports advice is also beneficial for knowing which type of racquet design and weight will suit your strength, and for acquiring correct movement technique when playing the game of tennis.

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved