Nearly one half of tennis players will experience tennis elbow symptoms at some point in their careers. According to Nirschl Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is an overuse injury caused by repetitive motion in certain sports and/or work activities.
It is a painful condition involving the tendons that extend and stabilize the wrist. Some of the most common symptoms are: pain in the bones on the outside of your elbow, weakness when trying to grip something and pain in the upper middle of the topside of your forearm.
Understanding the causes is paramount to develop a successful rehabilitation program.
Contributing factors that cause the breakdown of elbow tendons include, but are not limited to:
- Improper swing mechanics
- Grip issues
- Improper grip sizes
- Too much grip tension
- Weak and/or tight forearm muscles
- Weak and/or tight shoulder muscles
- Racquet stiffness
- Racquet string pattern is too tight
- Incorrect string and/or string tension
Tennis elbow is a persistent condition that is not easily resolved. Recovery can sometimes take several months before you can return to playing pain-free tennis.
Stop playing immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms. Even if your symptoms are mild, do not continue playing or try to play again. The sooner you begin a rest and rehabilitation program, the better your chances are for a complete recovery.
Ice the painful area for 15-20 minutes.
Get evaluated by a sports physician or sports physical therapist.
Purchase a carpal tunnel wrist brace and wear it 24/7 (except when showering).
There are more than 20 stretches and exercises that can be a part of your recovery process (you can ask for more information here).
Here is one example:
Place the affected arm straight out in front of you and turn your hand as if you are pouring a glass of water. Curl your wrist downward and using the other hand gently increase the bend of your wrist to stretch out your forearm. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat.
Gary Kitchell is a sports specific physical therapist, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a USPTA teaching professional. He has worked with 15 former number No. 1 players including John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl. Learn more at kitchtennisrx.com.