Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Overuse injuries to the elbow are very common and can put a quick stop to anyone’s activity.

The most common problem afflicting tennis players is lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow,” which is a tendonitis of the outside part of the elbow. We see this most commonly in players who do not warm up properly or play too much their first time out on the court after a long hiatus.

The tendons on the top of the hand all attach up at the elbow on the outside or lateral part of the elbow. If you are right handed, it most commonly afflicts your right elbow.

This tendonitis of the elbow can be very painful and can cause pain to radiate down the forearm to the hand. It can also cause a weakness of your grip and make it difficult to hold your racquet. It can also be associated with entrapment of the nerve at the elbow, called radial tunnel syndrome. This causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the thumb and index finger of the hand and can eventually lead to permanent nerve damage if not treated properly. This can also put quite a damper on your stroke so it is important not to ignore it and to seek advice from a sports medicine physician. Early treatment is the best way to avoid long term problems.

Conservative treatment often is a good treatment option for lateral epicondylitis. Here are some simple tips to avoid getting tennis elbow:

1) Regularly do stretches of the forearm muscles to promote flexibility of the muscles and tendons of the forearm and hand. By keeping the elbow straight, stretch the wrist both directions to work the forearm muscles.

2) Squeeze a tennis ball or some other rubber ball for at least five minutes a day. This can be done while driving home from a stressful day at the office or even at work while on the telephone.

3) Do wrist curls using a very light weight and then do reverse curls of the wrist, all with the elbow straight to work the forearm muscles.

4) Always stretch before and after playing. If the elbow is sore after playing, ice the area for at least 15 minutes after playing.

5) A brace worn around the forearm while playing can also help reduce the strain around the elbow and helps give your elbow a break.

If your elbow pain does not go away, it may be time to seek medical attention from a qualified sports medicine physician as most of these injuries can be treated without surgery. Other useful information about common injuries can found at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website at www.aaos.org or www.orthoinfo.org with more information concerning all types of orthopaedic injuries.