Tennis elbow is an injury, which most people in the world of tennis will know about. However, it’s very rare that professional tennis players, ever suffer from the injury. Professional tennis coaching helps In fact, it’s difficult to find a case of a professional player missing matches or performing poorly because of tennis elbow. So, what exactly is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow, is the name given to a condition which causes pain around the outside part of the elbow. The scientific name for the injury is ‘lateral epicondylitis’ which means there is inflammation to the outside of the elbow bone.
Now, as is the case with many parts of the human body, the elbow bone does not sit in isolation from other areas of the arm, in particular the tendons. It’s the tendons, which are used when cocking the wrist, that become irritated and inflamed. These tendons are attached to the bony part of the outer elbow and can suffer tiny tears, which cause pain to build slowly in the outer elbow area.
Despite the name, it’s not only tennis players who can suffer from this injury. Any repetitive use of the arm, similar to that of a tennis player, could result in a tennis elbow injury.
Causes of Injury
As mentioned above, you do not have to be a regular tennis player, to suffer from a tennis elbow injury. One of the most common causes of tennis elbow is repeating the same activity of gripping and twisting the wrist. A good example of this is an office worker, who is creating designs using a mouse. If you imagine how often that person is using the mouse and gripping and twisting their wrist in doing so, it can be quite surprising. The movement is such a subconscious one, as the person is concentrating on what is happening on the screen, that the tennis elbow injury can build up without that person even knowing.
Of course, tennis elbow can be as a result of playing a lot of tennis. The repetitive nature of hitting the tennis ball involves a lot of twisting and gripping of the wrist. The same can be said for other sports, such as squash or fencing. Learning how to hold the tennis racket correctly is important.
There are also other trades which can result in an increased chance of tennis elbow, such as carpentry, painting or knitting. I doubt there are many people who would consider tennis elbow as being an injury sustained from knitting, but knowing the actual nature of the injury, as we do now, it’s clear as to how this could happen.
In it’s basic sense, tennis elbow can be considered an overuse injury.
Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Suffering pain and tenderness around the outside of the elbow, is the most common sign of a tennis elbow injury. However, the pain could be a very mild form of discomfort, so much so, that many people pass it off as being nothing. It’s one of those moments, where you feel pain, briefly and think ‘oh, I wonder what that was?’, look at your elbow and then forget about it. Until the next time it happens that is.
The example above is important because the pain and discomfort of a tennis elbow injury can build up over time, without their being an obvious cause.
Signs that you could be suffering from tennis elbow include pain or discomfort when using a computer, gripping an item, twisting your wrist, fully extending your arm or squeezing an object.
The key thing to remember here, is that although the injury is called tennis elbow, any actual pain is often felt when using the hands and wrist.
Treatment of Tennis Elbow Injury
One element of good news about a tennis elbow injury, is that it can heal on it’s own. It’s just a matter of resting it. Understandably, this can be difficult for people who are in a job where the arm is being used regularly. However, there are steps you can take, which will help speed up the recovery of the injury.
These include icing the elbow, performing motion exercises and wearing an elbow strap. If these treatments, along with rest, do not help in curing or reducing the injury, then surgery may be required. Be aware, that this will only be used as a form of treatment, if all other alternatives have been tried without success.
Prevention of Tennis Elbow
This is perhaps, one of the most important points contained within this article. If we are able to prevent tennis elbow from occurring in the first place, then using any of the treatments mentioned above, will be unnecessary.
By taking a short break between tasks, which are placing stress on the wrist and hand, the chances of suffering a tennis elbow injury are reduced. Other preventative measures include stretching and warming up the arm before physical exertion, using the correct technique when playing racquet sports and applying ice to the elbow after exercise.
By using the preventative measures discussed above, it’s possible to decrease the chances of a tennis elbow injury developing.
Getting Back to the Court
If the tennis elbow injury is not severe, the good news is, it’s possible to continue playing and still recover from the injury. Following the steps mentioned above, will really help with this. However, if the injury is causing a lot of pain and discomfort, then you may have to restrict your playing or stop completely.
Having stopped playing, to aid the healing process, the next question, is when is the best time to start playing again?
In the case of a severe injury, it’s considered wise to wait until you have been symptom free for one month and have regained the strength in your arm. Once you feel ready to play again, always warm up well and if it starts to hurt again, do not force it, accept that it is better to stop. This can be the most difficult time to stop, as a recurring injury can be very frustrating but in the long-term, it’s the best decision.
So there we have it, tennis elbow is an injury that everyone needs to be aware of, not only tennis players. Knitting may not be considered a sport but can lead to the same type of injury that playing tennis can and this highlights the dangers of tennis elbow. Be aware of the symptoms and always do what you can to help prevent the injury from happening in the first place.
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