Tennis Elbow Pain: How to Prevent and Treat It

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Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is an overuse injury that occurs on the outer part of the elbow. While this malady commonly afflicts tennis players, you can develop epicondylitis without ever picking up a racket. This can make using your hand very difficult and painful. However, by identifying the activities you performed that caused this pain and correcting them, as well as doing a few corrective exercises, it is possible to get rid of the discomfort and regain full function of your arm.

The Malady:

Lateral epicondylitis

The Facts:

Lateral epicondylitis is an inflammatory condition that is brought on my overuse of the forearm muscles, specifically the muscles that extend your wrist (lift your hand up with your palm facing down). It is sometimes called tennis elbow because of the propensity of racket sport players to develop this condition. However, many times non-athletes can develop epicondylitis from performing their daily activities. Most people develop epicondylitis on their dominant arm, but it can appear on either side.

The Symptoms:

Patients with epicondylitis frequently complain of a muscle pain in their forearm. Pain is most intense around the outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow, but can also radiate down the back of the forearm. Depending on intensity, this can range from a slight discomfort to a strong, searing pain. Activities such as gripping, turning door handles, or pouring a drink can elicit pain.

What is Happening:

When you perform a repeated action, whether tennis or some other repetitive forearm motion, the “common extensor tendon” becomes inflamed. This tendon lifts up your wrist with your palm facing downwards. It can also become inflamed from relatively short bursts of intense activity to which you are not accustomed, such as playing a new sport. There is also new evidence that inflammation can develop from either a blunt trauma to the area, or from a “pulled muscle”, which is a small tear.

Why Is This Happening:

In the case of tennis players, epicondylitis frequently occurs because of shoulder strength. Confused yet? While it may not appear connected, weakness in your shoulder muscles during a swing cause all the force to be absorbed by your forearms instead of dispersed amongst several different muscle groups. This can also hold true in non-sporting injuries if the muscles of the shoulder and upper arm are not strong enough to handle the task at hand.

Lifestyle Adjustments:

Because inexperienced athletes or “weekend” warriors are most likely to become afflicted by epicondylitis, it is important to maintain good overall fitness so that when you do perform an activity your technique doesn’t break down. It is especially important to focus on maintaining strength in your shoulders, so that the rest of the arm does not have to pick up too much of the slack. It is also critical to slowly get back into sports if you haven’t played in a while, as overexerting yourself before you’ve developed the strength for it can lead to injury.

Fix It and Prevent It:

The key to correcting epicondylitis is resting the injured structure by not performing aggravating exercises. If an activity gives you pain try to avoid doing it until symptoms subside. While the rest from activity to the inflamed tendon is important, it is also critical to strengthen the muscles of the forearm, as well as the shoulder. Although forearm exercises may be somewhat uncomfortable, they are necessary to build up the strength in your arm. Additionally, you want to keep the muscles above the elbow, specifically the rotator cuff in the shoulder, strong to take the pressure off of the injured tendon. Finally, stretching the wrist muscles is also critical in keeping good range of motion.

Contact L.I.C. Strong to discuss some ways to decrease your elbow pain!

Contact Info

Dmitry R. Choklin
PT, DPT, CSCS, CKTP

Cell: (917) 328-8098
Fax: (866) 282-1162
Email: dchoklin@yahoo.com

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