Dr. Mark S. Cantieri • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Tennis Elbow and Golfers Elbow
Tennis Elbow & Golfer’s Elbow
Tennis elbow is a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse. Tennis Elbow isn't always cause by tennis, but whatever the cause, Corrective Care can treat it.
Golfers elbow presents the same symptoms, it is treated in the same way. Not surprisingly, other sports and activities besides tennis and golf can also cause the same pain and symptoms, but for the sake of this article we’ll call it Tennis Elbow.
Tennis elbow is an inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from overuse. This leads to pain and
tenderness on the outside of the elbow.
Elbow Pain – Not Always from Athletic Activities
Athletes are not the only people who get tennis elbow. Many people get “tennis elbow” from participating in work or recreational activities that require repetitive and vigorous use of the forearm muscle.
Painters, plumbers, and carpenters are particularly prone to developing tennis elbow. Studies have shown that auto workers, cooks, and even butchers get tennis elbow more often than the rest of the population. It is thought that the repetition and weight lifting required in these occupations leads to injury.
What Causes Tennis Elbow Pain (Besides Tennis)
Recent studies show that tennis elbow is often due to damage to a specific forearm muscle. The extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle helps stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight. This occurs during a tennis groundstroke, for example. When the ECRB is weakened from overuse, microscopic tears form in the tendon where it attaches to the lateral epicondyle. This leads to inflammation and pain.
The ECRB may also be at increased risk for damage because of its position. As the elbow bends and straightens, the muscle rubs against bony bumps. This can cause gradual wear and tear of the muscle over time.
Most people who get tennis elbow are between the ages of 30 and 50, although anyone can get tennis elbow if they have the risk factors. In racquet sports like tennis, improper stroke technique and improper equipment may be risk factors.
Tennis Elbow in some cases occurs without any recognized repetitive injury. This occurrence is called "insidious" or of an unknown cause.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
The symptoms of tennis elbow usually develop gradually. In most cases, the pain begins as mild and slowly worsens over weeks and months. There is usually no accident or specific moment in which the elbow was injured that is associated with the start of symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow, and reduced grip strength. The symptoms are often worsened with forearm activity, such as holding a racquet, turning a wrench, or shaking hands. Your dominant arm is most often affected; but sometimes both arms are affected.
Treating Tennis Elbow
There are many treatment options for tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. Here are some things you can do to treat tennis elbow yourself. If after a few weeks the pain remains, you should consider scheduling an appointment with our office.
The first step toward recovery is to give your arm proper rest. This means that you will have to stop participation in sports or heavy work activities for several weeks.
Drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen reduce pain and swelling.
One of the best ways to avoid elbow problems is to strengthen your forearm muscles and slow your golf swing so that there will be less shock in the arm when the ball is hit. The following simple exercises can help build up your forearm muscles and help you avoid golfer's elbow. For best results, do these exercises during the off-season as well.
Squeeze a tennis ball. Squeezing an old tennis ball for 5 minutes at a time is a simple, effective exercise that will strengthen your forearm muscles.
Wrist curls. Use a lightweight dumbbell. Lower the weight to the end of your fingers, and then curl the weight back into your palm. Follow this by curling up your wrist to lift the weight an inch or two higher. Perform 10 repetitions with one arm, and then repeat with the other arm.
Reverse wrist curls. Use a lightweight dumbbell. Place your hands in front of you, palm side down. Using your wrist, lift the weight up and down. Hold the arm that you are exercising above your elbow with your other hand in order to limit the motion to your forearm. Perform 10 repetitions with one arm, and then repeat with the other arm.
Check Your Equipment
If you participate in a racquet sport, your doctor may encourage you to have your equipment checked for proper fit. Stiffer racquets and looser-strung racquets often can reduce the stress on the forearm, which means that the forearm muscles do not have to work as hard. If you use an oversized racquet, changing to a smaller head may help prevent symptoms from recurring. The size of your racquet or club handle may also contribute to the problem.