When you hear the term tennis elbow you may think this topic is only relevant to those who play tennis or other sports. In reality, anyone can get the shooting pain that’s associated with tennis elbow. Dealing daily with pain in your elbow can hinder movement in your arm and make everyday tasks, such as brushing your teeth or holding a coffee cup, become more and more difficult. Luckily, there are ways to alleviate the pain associated with tennis elbow. Fixing the pain and practicing preventative measures, will ensure your elbow is pain free and allow your arms to move easily. What Is Tennis Elbow?
In simple terms, tennis elbow is the overuse of the tendons in the forearms, also called the wrist extensors. When the wrist extensors are overused, over time small, microscopic tears occur leading to elbow pain. Unlike many injuries, the pain is not caused by inflammation. This makes the condition difficult, though not impossible, to treat. According to WebMD, tennis elbow effects 1-3% of the overall population in the United States. Though the name may suggest it, less than 5% of all tennis elbow diagnoses are actually related to playing tennis.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
There are many different ways to identify if you’re suffering from tennis elbow and it’s important to identify the symptoms as you experience them. Here are a few symptoms associated with tennis elbow:
- Pain radiating from the outside of your elbow to the forearm and wrist.
- Pain when you extend your arms.
- Pain getting increasingly worse as time passes.
- Shooting pain in the elbow during certain activities such as brushing your teeth or turning a door handle.
- Weakened grip when grasping objects, such as a cup of coffee.
Treating and Preventing Tennis Elbow
Though tennis elbow can be difficult to treat, there are many stretches and exercises that will start to improve and alleviate your symptoms. The first step in treating tennis elbow is meeting with a physical therapist. Your therapist will develop a treatment plan to help you get started as well as monitor your recovery to ensure the injury is not becoming worse.
There are several exercises and stretches that you can do at home to get started on the road to recovery. You should always check with your physical therapist before doing any recovery exercises on your own to avoid further injury. Below are several exercises you can easily do at home:
- Wrist Extensor Ball Rollout: Start by sitting in a chair with your palm facing down. With the opposite hand, press a ball into the bulk of the muscle mass on the wrist right below the elbow. Be aware that muscle stiffness will cause some tenderness. Apply pressure and roll the ball up and down the muscle mass for one minute. Repeat this 2-3 times throughout the day.
- Wrist Extensor Strengthening: Sit in a chair with your palm facing down and a light weight in your hand. With the opposite hand, grab the weight gently and assist the your involved hand as you extend the weight upwards. Release and slowly bring down the weight. Repeat 15 times for 3 sets.
- Wrist Flexor Stretch: Extend your arm in front of you with the backs of your hands facing the floor. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist downwards, towards the floor until you feel a moderate stretch in your forearm. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 2-4 times.
- Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Start by standing or sitting up straight with your spine naturally aligned. From this position, slowly pinch your shoulder blades together, avoid shrugging your shoulders upwards. Repeat 15 times for 3 sets.
Getting relief from tennis elbow will also require that you take preventative measures to avoid it happening in the first place or again. It can be easy to prevent it by just keeping in mind a few simple measures:
- Avoid repetitive tasks. Change up your technique when you play sports
- Takes breaks. As you work, take breaks to relieve the strain on your tendons
- Warm up and stretch. Before you begin any task that could cause tennis elbow, warm up the muscles and stretch
- Tennis elbow strap. You can wear a type of brace that will take the pressure off your tendons, effectively avoiding getting tennis elbow.
- Know you pain. If you start to feel pain in your elbow, know how bad it is and see a doctor before it becomes worse.
You don’t have to live everyday with tennis elbow. Working with a physical therapist you can make a plan and tackle the pain in your elbow getting you back to the everyday activities you love to do.
Care First Rehab in Cary, NC provides on-location and clinic therapy services including physical, occupational, pediatric, speech, massage, sports injury and more. Contact Pragati Sonker at (919) 460-1921 to schedule your therapy appointment.