Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How To Identify and Treat Tennis Elbow - and When to See a Doctor

Tennis Elbow is a 100-Year-Old Injury.
 
Doctors first identified tennis elbow more than 100 years ago. Many medical textbooks treat tennis elbow as a form of tendonitis which is often the case, but if the muscles and bone of the elbow joint are also involved then the condition is epicondylitis.

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is one of several injuries that result from overuse that can affect the elbow. While playing tennis may be a cause, so are many other common activities, including using a screwdriver, painting, raking, and weaving.

Is it tennis elbow?

Consider the differences in aches in and around the elbow joint:

Tennis elbow: Gradual onset of feeling pain when gripping, lifting and carrying objects on the lateral side of elbow.

Golfer’s Elbow: Pain radiates throughout the joint on the medial side of the elbow.

Bursitis: Swelling on the posterior aspect often caused by leaning, falling or hitting the back of the elbow.

 Other signs of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain that radiates along outside of elbow possibly into forearm and fingers
  • Pain if you touch or bump the lateral side of the elbow
  • Pain with wrist extension
  • A weakened grip with muscle soreness along the lateral side
  • A painful grip during shaking hands, turning doorknobs, lifting or bending the arm
  • You may even experience pain upon extending the forearm if muscle/tendon become tight and sore

Relief of Tennis Elbow

  1. Stop any activity that causes pain if possible.
  2. Use NSAIDs.
  3. Apply ice after use and heat before/during activity.
  4. Wear a tennis strap such as Tennis Elbow Strap by Cramer, Aircase Pneumatic Armband, PRO Neoprene Elbow Sleeve, or Thermoskin Elbow Sleeve around upper forearm.
  5. If you find the cause was work-related, take frequent breaks.
  6. If standard conservative methods are ineffective, seek medical intervention.

For the tennis player with tennis elbow

Recreational players need to carefully monitor and check their equipment. Items to consider include:

  • Racquet material - graphite composite materials are considered best for torsion and vibration control.
  • Head Size - a midsize racquet (95-110 sq inches) is preferred. Oversize racquet heads may result in injury due to increased torque with off center hits.
  • String tension - you might consider staying at the lower end of the manufacturer’s recommendations. While higher string tension increase ball control and spin, it also requires greater forearm strength and torque control.
  • Stringing - consider using synthetic material and re-string every 6 months.
  • Grip Size - a grip too large or too small lessens control and promote excessive wrist movement.

When to seek medical help

If your game has not improved due to discomfort and you have tried standard conservative methods of care (ice, NSAIDs, rest) plus have examined your equipment, seek medical assistance. If your elbow is hot and inflamed, you cannot move your elbow/forearm without pain, your elbow looks deformed, you have numbness in one or more fingers and you seem to have no grip strength anymore, also seek medical assistance.

View Tennis sports medicine products for the prevention and relief of tennis-related injuries >>

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