If you’ve played a racquet sport for long enough, chances are you’ve dealt with tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis. You know the feeling: that dull, steadily increasing pain on the outer bony part of your elbow that hinders you from performing even the simplest tasks. The funny thing is, you don’t have to be a tennis player to acquire tennis elbow. Not only do other athletes suffer this type of tendonitis, but anybody whose everyday life requires a repetitive arm, wrist or elbow motion is at risk for tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow is typically caused by overusing the muscles in your arm. Overworking these muscles can result in tiny tears in the tendons attached to the bone in your elbow, which can lead to pain and inflammation.
Tennis elbow can usually be self-diagnosed. It typically starts out as a dull pain on the outside of your elbow around an area called the lateral epicondyle. The pain is concentrated around this area, but can extend into your upper or lower arm. If it is not treated or rested, tennis elbow can get increasingly painful and affect many different areas of your life. Shaking hands, opening doors, even twisting tops off of jars can become nearly impossible in severe cases of tennis elbow. The pain can either be too great, or the condition can cause weakness in the forearm, elbow, or wrist.
There are different factors in tennis and pickleball that can cause tennis elbow. Sometimes the mechanics of your stroke can be harmful to your elbow and tendon. Sometimes it’s simply playing too hard too often. Sometimes it just happens due to years and years swinging a racquet.
So how can you treat tennis elbow?
Lateral epicondylitis is usually treatable at home. In severe cases it may require surgery, but that is a last resort and very unusual. The easiest way to start the healing process is to rest. Stop engaging in activities that cause pain or stress on the elbow. Apply ice for 10-15 minutes several times a day. This will decrease inflammation and relieve pain.
After a week or so of resting and icing, start doing strengthening exercises and stretches if the pain has subsided; try not to jump right back into your regular workouts. These exercises are meant to strengthen the muscles and tendons in your elbow and forearm.
While tennis elbow can be a painful annoyance, it is also easily treatable. With rest, ice, stretching and strengthening exercises, you’ll be back on the court in no time. Do you have any tricks for dealing with tennis elbow? Leave us a comment and let us know!