Does your elbow hurt when you attempt to open a jar, hold something heavy, or turn a doorknob? You may have “tennis elbow”. Whether you play tennis or not you can know the frustrations and pain of tennis elbow. Luckily for you, you don’t need surgery or expensive devices to get rid of it!
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is inflammation of the muscles and tendons of the forearm on the lateral part of the elbow. These muscles and tendons in the forearm can get damaged or irritated from overuse or repetitive movements, especially when you are not used to such movement. This can especially affect weekend warriors who overexert themselves (e.g. when you practice 200 serves per day multiple days in a row when you are normally used to playing tennis only a couple times per week).
What if I don’t play tennis?
Anyone can get tennis elbow even without ever playing tennis. Racquet sports are just one way you could end up with tennis elbow, but there are many other sports or activities that could cause an overuse injury to the elbow tendons. For example, swinging a baseball bat, rock climbing, weight lifting, or even carrying heavy groceries or luggage or lifting up your kids can provoke symptoms of tennis elbow. Simply put these forearm tissues can get overworked and strained from any amount of gripping or hand and forearm use that is more than what they can tolerate. And that can cause the overuse injury known as tennis elbow (and other similar injuries as well).
Why is tennis elbow so difficult to fix?
We commonly see mismanagement of this condition right when symptoms begin to occur. This means that people many times continue with the irritating activity and try using medications such as NSAIDs to mask the pain. This may work for some time until your grip strength is affected or NSAIDs just aren’t controlling the pain. When this happens, it’s time to see a physical therapist. There are several muscle and joint imbalances that may be causing excessive stress to the irritated tissues and only by addressing these first and then, and only then, strengthening the tissues can help the pain go down. Physical therapists have the training and expertise to not only fix the problem but to also prevent it from happening again in the future. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you will have a solution. Don’t delay your care!
Tip #1: Shoulder and mid back strengthening
One of the most common things we see in patients with elbow pain is weakness in their shoulders and mid back. Finding exercises that strengthen your mid back without causing elbow pain is extremely important for those struggling with tennis elbow, especially if they actually do play a racquet sport. Ts and Ys pictured below are a great introductory exercise to strengthen the mid back. Using bands rather than weights can relieve the need for gripping and can do wonders for your rotator cuff and shoulder strength.
Tip #2: Give your elbow a break
As we outlined above, tennis elbow is an overuse injury. So if you haven’t already done so, let your elbow rest! Find the provocative activity you are doing and find ways to take a break from that activity. Whether that means using your other arm to carry items or cross training, finding another activity and giving your painful elbow a rest will be beneficial in the long term. If you continue to do the provoking activity, the inflammation will never have time to heal.
Tip #3: Isometrics
Isometrics, or the act of holding a load for a certain amount of time, can help ease tendon pain while still using your muscles so that your muscles do not atrophy or become weak. These are low risk exercises to incorporate once you are ready to start using your affected elbow again. Below are examples of simple isometrics to try out:
Tip #4: Gradually return back to your sport or activity (Tennis, Carrying, Lifting)
Your risk of reaggravation is highest at this stage of your recovery. By this point, your elbow is feeling alot better and it is very tempting to play an extra game, but KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Don’t jump back into playing or lifting at the same intensity as prior to your injury. TAKE IT SLOW. Start with a short practice session and then give yourself a rest day in between. You may gradually increase your exercise as tolerated. If done properly, you will finally be able to withstand the amount of activity and repetition you are demanding of your elbow without reinjuring yourself.
Tip #5: See a physical therapist!
These general tips are some of the effective techniques we use to treat tennis elbow, but every elbow is different and in some cases these can either not give you much relief or even flare things up a bit. In order to get specific treatment for your exact problems, working with a physical therapist familiar with the intricacies of tennis elbow can help quicken your recovery and get you back on the court as soon as possible!
Don’t delay the treatment you need to get rid of that pesky elbow pain. Call us at (720) 651-0674 or visit us at Kinetikchaindenver.com and sign up for a free discovery visit to assess your elbow today!
"Are You Being Held Back By Tennis Elbow Pain? Have You Tried Everything, But Feel Let Down?"
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