Though commonly referred to as Tennis Elbow, this injury is actually caused by the inflammation of the tendons and muscles in the forearm, and as such is a form of tendonitis. These particular muscles are used to bend the wrist back, causing the palm to be face up. The reason the injury is referred to as tennis elbow is that sports such as tennis can cause these muscles to become overused, bringing on the inflammation and pain.
Does tennis elbow only affect tennis players?
No. Another sport where tennis elbow can be a common problem with players is golf, and consequently is sometimes referred to as golfer’s elbow. The symptoms and pain are similar in this case, the difference being that any swelling appears on the inside of the elbow, because the arm, muscles and tendons are used slightly differently in the repetitive movement of the golf swing. For instance, a left-handed golfer will feel the pain in his/her right elbow, as pulling the club through the swing with the right arm causes the inflammation and discomfort. Tennis elbow can also affect weightlifters and baseball players.
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
Symptoms may include any or all of the following:
- Swelling on the outside of the elbow (or inside, in terms of golfer’s elbow)
- Tenderness or discomfort around the elbow joint
- Pain when moving the elbow joint
How is tennis elbow treated?
The usual treatments for tennis elbow include complete rest of the arm, the application of ice packs, and an elbow support or wrist-splint in order to assist the healing process and encourage rest of the tendons. However, if these options are unsuccessful, a cortisone and anaesthetic injection can greatly relieve the symptoms and pain. If the condition is severe, meaning there is restricted movement in the joint and injections are unsuccessful in curing the problem, surgery may be required.
How can tennis elbow be prevented?
A cure for tennis elbow can have as much to do with technique as medical treatment. A tennis player can learn to position his/her feet in order to put the full weight of the body behind a shot without putting too much stress on the elbow, muscles and tendons of the racquet-bearing arm. Learning the correct body position for a shot can drastically reduce the stress on the elbow, as the player is using the weight and strength of the body rather than the arm.
What about golfer’s elbow?
Similarly to tennis players, golfers can learn to ‘smooth out’ any problems with their technique in order to reduce the strain on the elbow.
Are there any exercises that could help?
The following exercises can help to improve the strength of the forearm and therefore prevent injury.
- Wrist curls –while holding a light dumbbell at your side with the palm forward, flex the wrist forward and up.
- Reverse wrist curls – as with wrist curls, but with the palm facing backward.
- Squeeze a soft tennis ball until the hand feels tired – this strengthens the muscles in the forearm.