Tennis is a fantastic sport, and one you can play well into your golden years, unlike many other sports that can help keep you inn shape. Depending on how you play, it is a great way to stay in fit without worrying too much about injury.
One common affliction among tennis players everywhere though, is tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis ), a maddening pain that can take much of the fun out of a few hard sets. In more serious cases, it can keep you off the court altogether. If it affects you, here is a tennis elbow treatment that can help alleviate the pain and get you back on the court again.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Although it’s called tennis elbow, it is not confined to tennis players. In fact, you can get it from playing other sports as well. Golf, fencing racquetball, and other sports that require a swinging motion can bring on the condition. No matter how you get it though, the results are basically the same. You feel a radiating pain that starts at the elbow and travels down toward your wrist. It typically occurs on the outside of the elbow.
It is caused by tendon degeneration brought on by repetitive motion. Although many people think it is tendonitis, it is actually different. Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons. Tennis elbow, although it is tendon related, is caused by micro-fractures in the tendons that are incompletely healed whereas tendonitis is more of a tendon inflammation.
What to Do About Tennis Elbow
Knowing about it fine, but finding an effective tennis elbow treatment is more important. I’ve had it, and it’s certainly no picnic. The first thing to do is have someone who knows their stuff look at your swing to make sure it’s not a mechanical problem that’s bringing you down. Often, a minor modification to how you’re swinging your racquet can make all the difference. This is important, because if your swing is causing the problem, nothing else you do will fix it permanently. Soon you’ll be back at square one.
RICE – Not the Kind From Your Wedding, Either
As with many other common sports injuries, the RICE regimen is the first course of action. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Stop playing for a week or two. I know, for a committed (crazy) tennis player, that can be worse than any pain they’re experiencing, but unless you want to keep tearing up your arm, it’s a plunge you’re going to have to take.
Next, get some ice on it STAT to lessen the pain and inflammation. Much if the pain is caused by blood and fluids pressing against nerves inside your arm. The ice will slow any bleeding caused by the injury. Don’t see any blood? Well, you’re not going to. It’s caused by micro-tears in the tissue, and it’s all internal. It’s deep enough that you’re probably not going to detect any evidence of it at all.
For much the same reason as ice, Compression and Elevation are prescribed. The pressure keeps the swelling down, and swelling retards healing. Be careful that you don’t go overboard here. If you use a bandage or other compression technique, making it too tight will cut off the circulation which can have very unfortunate consequences. That arm on the ground could be yours…
Elevation is pretty self explanatory. Keep your arm higher than your shoulder for a day or two after you first notice the onset of pain. Hat will also help lessen any swelling or inflammation, and promote healing.
Get a Grip!
If you got it from tennis, the first step is to ensure that you’re using the right racket, and that it’s properly set up for you. Check the grip size. A seemingly microscopic change can make a big difference. Grip sizes measure between 4” and 4-7/8”. That doesn’t seem like much, but that 7/8 of an inch can make all the difference. Most important when tennis elbow is concerned is to make sure the grip isn’t too small.
To find the right grip size for you hand, place your hand out, palm facing up. Notice the three lines across your palm. Take a measurement from your middle crease straight up to the end of your ring finger. That is the correct measurement. If you are between exact eighth measurements, go the size smaller and add an overwrap to make up the difference.
The next thing to check is the string tension. Too much can contribute to the shock your elbow feels when you strike the ball. Backing off on the tension a few pounds can lessen the shock your arm experiences, and help cure your problems.
You’ll give up some control by lessening the string tension, but you’ll actually gain a bit of power. As with grip sizing, a little change can go a long way. Dropping the tension only 3 – 5 lbs can really help your poor, aching arm, and you may barely notice (on the other hand, your game may really go to hell) how it affects your hitting. Besides, you can usually compensate for the decreased control and more “pop” you’re getting off your racket. It may take a while to regain your form, but your arm will certainly thank you for the change.
Off Balance? – No, Not You
Another racket related thing to check is the balance. Check to see that the racket you’re using is neutral or head light. Using a very head heavy racquet can add significantly to the damage. Going lighter in the head will help reduce the tendon strain you’re experiencing.
Get Back to Work
There are some great exercises to help rehab your arm. Exercising will also build strength; important not only to prevent the problem in the future, but to maintain strength in your arm when you’re recovering and not playing.
First on the agenda is stretching. Simply hold your arm out straight and grab the fingers of your injured arm with your other hand. Gently pull your fingers back toward your body. That will stretch your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, improving flexibility and lessening the possibility you’ll re-injure it in the future. Do these stretches both palm up and palm down.
Next, there are some strengthening exercises to do. Use very lightweight (1 – 5 lbs) dumbbells for most of these. You’ll add more weight later, so don’t try and show ho much weight you can use now. Grab a dumbbell, then put your arm on a table, palm up , with your hand and wrist hanging over the edge. Let the weight droop until your hand is bent back, then slowly curl your wrist up, keeping your forearm firmly against the table. Do 15 of these. Wait a minute, then flip your hand over so it’s palm down and do another 15 reps. Start out only doing one set of each, then work your way up to 3 sets of each.
Get Back to Where You Once Belonged
One common problem with avid tennis players is that their addiction prevents them from taking it easy. They have to play for hours, 5 – 7 days a week. Although that may sure keep the extra fat at bay and your game at a high level, it does nothing to help an elbow heal. Despite the compelling draw of the tennis court, easing back into it is vital to prevent an injury recurrence. Start out playing only 15 – 20 minutes, and because the backhand motion is more likely to cause injury, stick to the forehand only at first. I know, it sucks!
After a week, you can double your playing time, but again, forehand only. By now, your backhand will be growing pretty stale. Don’t worry, it comes back fast. I’m coming off an Achilles injury and I was pretty surprised at just how fast I regained my backhand, even though I hadn’t really hit for about a month. The third week, you can add in some backhand, but keep it to about 20% of your overall swings, and keep both hands on the racket at all times when you’re hitting backhand shots. Oh, and NO SERVES YET!
By the forth week, you can ease up to about 45 minutes to an hour of play, but still no serves for a while. You can add in one handed backhands now, though. Week five is pretty much a copy of week four, but you can try a few serves just to see if it has completely deserted you.
Week six brings with it even more playing time; however much you want, as a matter of fact. Add in substantial serving time if you’d like. After a week of that, you’ll be ready to jump back in with both feet, and play as hard as you want. If you short cut this process, there’s a fine chance you’ll find yourself back at the beginning in short order. If you love to climb that mountain over and over again, that’s between you and your arm.
I always like plenty of activity to help stay fit and burn off body fat. Tennis is a great one, because it’s fun enough that you get your cardio without dieing of boredom. You also find some great friends and if you live in an area with nice weather, it’s affordable too, since you can play outside on public courts for free. There are some drawbacks however, and tennis elbow can be one of them. If you’ve managed to get yourself a case of it, these tennis elbow treatments can have you back on the court in short order.