Tennis elbow is a painful injury caused by a weakening of the tendons that connect your forearm muscles to your bones. The pain is caused when the tendons are inflamed, which is why tennis elbow is also tendonitis in the elbow joint. Doctors often call it lateral epicondylitis.
Certainly tennis players can suffer from tendonitis or lateral epicondylitis because their sport will over-work the elbow with repetitive motion, causing inflammation of those tendons.
Not All Tennis Elbow Injuries Are Caused By Tennis
However, experts estimate tennis is the cause in only 5% of tennis elbow cases. The rest are caused by other activities and jobs where you grip and twist with your hands repetitively, which swells tendons in your arm and may tear your muscle. As a result, you may experience pain in your outer elbow, forearm, wrist, and outer arm from a tennis elbow injury.
Other sports and jobs that can cause tennis elbow include racket sports, golf, ball sports like baseball, painting, carpentry, plumbing, using certain tools, playing certain musical instruments, working on cars or on an assembly line, and using kitchen utensils while cooking.
In addition, the swelling, inflammation, and pain of a tennis elbow injury can be caused by a direct blow to your elbow.
What Are the Risk Factors of Tennis Elbow?
- For tennis players, if your technique is off when hitting a backhand -forearm muscles clench too tightly, gripping the racquet too tightly- you put more stress on the elbow tendons, which could get small tears.
- Tennis elbow usually affects people between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Any activity that strains the muscles around your elbow over and over again can cause tennis elbow.
- Tennis elbow can affect one or both arms – at the same time.
What Are The First Steps My Physical Therapist Will Take?
Tennis elbow is an injury that usually needs time and rest to heal. Usually, an ache will start on the outside of your elbow, which often gets better on its own with rest, ice, and pain medicine. After a few weeks, though, if the ache turns into a constant pain and the outside of your elbow is too painful to touch, your physical therapist will:
- Start with pain relief using modalities such as ice massage, muscle stimulation, tape, straps or braces for support, or ultrasound
- Teach you ways to change your tennis stroke that is causing the tendonitis, if you’re a tennis player
- Work with you on correcting the cause of your tennis elbow, if you’re suffering from it due to another activity or job
- Help improve blood flow to the tendons, with exercises to improve healing
- Teach you how to rest your elbow, whether the strain is due to tennis or everyday activities
- Show you how to do exercises that stretch, strengthen, and improve the flexibility of your forearm muscles
Playing Tennis While In Recovery From Tennis Elbow
Immediately after your tennis elbow injury, it may be prudent to take a rest from tennis for a couple of days and stop the repetitive motion that caused your condition. A complete recovery could take as much as eight weeks, however.
If your tennis elbow is mild or moderate -not severe- and you’re vigilant about following a healthy recovery protocol, it is possible for you to keep playing tennis through your injury. Follow these guidelines if you want to continue playing.
- Decide what your priority is – to have a faster recovery or to play through your injury.
- If your tennis elbow is severe, flares up again, or causes significant pain on the court, stop playing immediately.
- Vary your training schedule; play on alternate days, play hard on one day and easier on the next two, for instance – until you’re pain-free.
- Treat your arm muscles and tendons with care on and off the court.
- Continue your physical therapy throughout your recovery.
If you are bothered by tennis elbow again, take note of the remedies you used the first time and adjust them, so your recovery can be successful this time around. Most likely, you’ll be including a schedule of physical therapy exercises.
Physical Therapy For Sports Injury Recovery
If you have a sports injury like tennis elbow or tendonitis, don’t rush your recovery. Return to play with the help of trained professionals and a targeted recovery protocol, so you can do so safely and successfully.
Physical therapy is effective for treating all your sports injuries, including tennis elbow. It can help you strengthen weak muscles and repair damaged ones. Find out how physical therapy can help your tennis elbow. Contact South Orange Rehabilitation & Wellness to schedule an appointment.