Pain From Tennis Elbow - What To Do
Although tennis is an excellent sport for fitness, bodies that play often and intensely can suffer injuries. One of the most common is called lateral epicondylitis, more frequently referred to as tennis elbow. It's caused by the repeated motion of the tennis swing and effects the forearm. Although tennis is not the only cause (if you handle tools, manual or power, with one hand in a repetitive way, you're susceptible), it's well-enough associated with tennis to get its common name.
To some people who've never experienced it, tennis elbow, may sound almost made up. But the pain and weakness experienced mostly on the outside of the forearm associated with this injury are very real. The discomfort can be intense. Icing down the area can provide some relief as can analgesics like aspirin or Ibuprofen, but 2 to 10 weeks or more of resting the injured arm is often required.
Although many people see a physician to diagnose the problem, pain or tenderness around the elbow following tennis or one of the other common causes such as working with a hammer for a longish period of time is diagnosis enough for others. If bending your wrist hurts, that's more evidence. Once the injury occurs, simple things like a handshake or removing the lid from a jar can exacerbate the pain as inflammation is often present. Even when there is no inflammation, you may feel fatigue when performing these common tasks.
As someone who's dealt with tennis elbow in the past, I speak from experience when I say the healing process can take time. As difficult as it can be, refraining from the activities that caused the injury in the first place is important to recover quickly and completely.
Initially, ice packs for short periods on the arm are useful to reduce any inflammation. After enough time has passed that you're sure the swelling has gone down, heat can be added to help the healing process. When the arm begins to feel better and gain strength, small amounts of exercise (such as squeezing a soft hand grip or therapy ball) can be added to your routine. But it's important not to rush back to the activity that caused the injury as further damage or delayed recovery can easily occur.
When you do recover fully enough, using a device such as a tight bandage or brace can help prevent re-injuring yourself. You can either try a few different appliances or get a recommendation from a physical therapist or doctor to find the appropriate device.
If your injury was indeed caused by tennis, there are equipment considerations that can be made to lessen the likelihood of a recurrence. First and foremost, make sure that your racket has the correct grip size. The wrong size grip (especially one that is two large) can easily cause further injury. Softer strings strung on the looser end of the recommended range of tension can also make a difference as can using a mid-sized, flexible racket as opposed to an over-sized, stiffer model.
The best way to prevent re-injury or initial injury is making sure your body is in shape, including your forearms. Simple strength exercises, including using light dumbbells to strengthen wrists is useful. Putting rubber bands around the thumb and fingers and expanding and relaxing the fingers interspersed with squeezing a therapy ball (mentioned earlier) is also good.
If you're a tennis fanatic like I am, you might want to get some coaching on your swing from a pro. If there's something you're doing that's causing the problem, you can learn to correct it. Maybe you can even improve your game in the process.