Tennis is a sport enjoyed by many. Its benefits increase the wellness of the body and its function, but with any sport, there is risk of injury. One of the most common tennis related injuries seen at North Shore Rehab Associates is lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as “tennis elbow.” Tennis elbow is one of several overuse injuries that can affect your elbow. The main cause of pain related to tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony prominence on the outside of your elbow (lateral epicondyle).
Symptoms of tennis elbow may include:
- Pain that radiates from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist
- Pain when you extend your wrist
- Forearm weakness
- Pain that gets worse over weeks or months
- A painful grip during certain activities, such as shaking hands, turning a doorknob or opening jars and containers
- An inability to hold certain objects, such as a coffee cup.
The pain of tennis elbow is similar to golfer’s elbow, but golfer’s elbow occurs on the inside rather than on the outside of your elbow.
How does tennis elbow occur?
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury. The cause is repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. The repeated motions and stress to the tissue may result in an inflammation or a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bone at the outside of your elbow.
As the name tennis elbow indicates, playing tennis, more particularly, a repeated use of the backhand stroke with poor technique, is one possible cause of the condition. Many other common activities can cause tennis elbow; some examples are the use of plumbing tools, painting, raking and weaving.
Am I at risk?
Tennis elbow is most common in adults ages 30 to 50, but the condition can affect anyone who repetitively stresses the wrists. Anyone who uses repetitive movements for at least two hours a day is at greater risk. People who smoke also have a higher risk of developing tennis elbow. If left untreated, tennis elbow can result in chronic pain, especially when lifting or gripping objects. Using your arm too strenuously before your elbow has healed can worsen the problem.
What are my options?
Your doctor or a physical/occupational therapist may suggest exercises to gradually stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially the muscles of your forearm. A specific treatment plan will be implemented based upon the patient’s abilities. The treatment would include therapeutic exercise with modalities such as cold laser, ultrasound, synaptic/electrical stimulation, and heat/ice. Once you’ve learned these exercises, you can do them at home or at work. A specific home exercise program will be created to assist rehabilitation.
Through the years, our office has treated many sports-related injuries producing beneficial outcomes. If there are any questions or concerns you may we can help.