Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Match Point: Treating and Preventing Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a very common sport related injury. Despite its name the injury can occur in a number of different sports. While usually a fairly minor injury, the resulting pain, discomfort, and potential weakness can prevent a person from participating in their activity of choice. Thankfully if the individual is knowledgeable, tennis elbow can be easily treated and potentially prevented.

Before you can treat tennis elbow it is important to have an understanding of exactly what the injury is and what the symptoms are. Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is an injury to the tendon that attaches all the extensor muscles for your wrist and fingers to the outside of your elbow. Although this article is focusing on tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is a similar injury that affects the tendon attaching the flexor muscles to the inside of the elbow; it therefore has similar symptoms and treatment just with a different location.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow 
  • Inflammation and pain localized to the outer area of the elbow 
  • Reduced grip strength 
  • Pain when you bend the wrist and straighten the elbow 
 Tennis elbow is an injury caused by repetitive movements and therefore can best be treated by no longer taking part in the activity or sport that is forcing the repetitive motion. Unfortunately for some people that may not be an option, in these cases there are many treatment options to consider:
  • RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is a great strategy to help minimize the symptoms of tennis elbow and speed recovery. 
  • Anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve the pain associated with the injury. 
  • Braces for the elbow can help reduce the stress placed on the tendon. Surprisingly a wrist brace can also be helpful as it limits the use of the muscles that are pulling on the tendon. 
Obviously the best way to deal with tennis elbow is to avoid it altogether. If you play a sport or have a repetitive activity that puts lots of strain on the muscles in your wrist and fingers, racquet sports are the biggest offenders, then you need to plan ahead. Here are a few things to help avoid tennis elbow:
  • Ensure you have proper form while engaging in your sport or activity can help reduce the risk of injury. 
  • Fatigue can lead to improper form which increases the potential for injury; by strengthening the muscles involved you can limit fatigue. 
  • Use a brace for the elbow or wrist to reduce stress on the tendon. This can be done during prolonged periods of your activity or sport even before you show signs of the injury. 
When it comes to tennis elbow the best defence is awareness, look into whether any activities or sports you take part in may put you at risk for the injury. If you display any of the symptoms treat immediately, if the injury persists or the pain is severe please see your doctor right away. With proper awareness and treatment you will be able to return faster from injury and reduce the chances of it recurring.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Aronen, J. (2012). How to reverse effects of reverse tennis elbow. Handball, 62(1), 66-67. 
2. Aronen, J. (2008). Serving up some help to treat tennis elbow. Handball, 58(4), 66-67. 
3. Howe, D.K. (2007). Tendon Trauma. American Fitness, 25(6), 9. 
4. Knudson, D.V. (2004). Biomechanical studies on the mechanism of tennis elbow. Engineering Of Sport 5, 1(1), 135-141. 
5. Reynolds, L. & Rolf, R.H. (2013). Health and Handball: My Elbow Hurts. Handball, 63(3), 34-35.
6. STRETCHING AIDS In Tennis Elbow Prevention. (2009). 
7. Tennis Life, 19. Waseem, M., Nuhmani, S.S., Ram, C.S., & Sachin, Y. (2012). Lateral epicondylitis: A review of the literature. Journal Of Back & Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 25(2), 131-142.

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