What causes tennis elbow and how to treat it?
Now that Wimbledon is back in full swing, here at Fizfit we wanted to provide you with the ultimate guide to preventing tennis elbow and provide a list of exercises that can be done easily at home to help with tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow is a common injury among tennis players or anyone who is overloading the tendons in their elbow in their daily activities, it is usually caused by the repetitive motion of your wrist or hand. We have put together this guide to understand what tennis elbow is, how you can prevent tennis elbow from happening and a list of exercises which can be done to strengthen your forearm to prevent tennis elbow.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is a condition that causes pain on the outside of your elbow. It is caused by the overuse or repeated use of your muscles in your forearm which leads to pain near your elbow joint. If your muscles are strained in your forearm this may cause inflammation or tears near on outside of your elbow joint. This pain from your elbow joint can also spread down into your forearm and wrist, creating pain throughout your arm.
Tennis elbow is often caused by playing tennis, the repeated action of swinging the racket when playing a game can cause stress on the elbow joint which will cause this pain to occur. However, tennis elbow can also occur from activities which involve repeated actions such as gardening or decorating.
If the pain on the inside of your elbow joint, this is known as golfers elbow.
If you have tennis elbow you may notice pain in your elbow when doing everyday tasks such as
- Lifting or bending your arm.
- Gripping small objects such as a pen or holding a tea cup.
- Shaking hands.
- Twisting a door handle.
If you notice this pain you should stop doing the activity that has caused the pain until the pain has reduced. If the pain does not go away, you should seek help from your doctor for further treatment.
How to prevent tennis elbow?
If you are an avid tennis player, taking steps to prevent tennis elbow should be made part of your warm up and recovery routine. It is a non-negotiable to ensure that you are stretching before and after a game of tennis. This will be key to preventing tennis elbow.
If you play tennis often, it is key to ensure that your technique and form are correct. Check your swing to ensure that you have the correct form will be key in preventing tennis elbow, you can ask a tennis coach or someone who is very familiar with the sport to ensure that your swinging technique and form are correct.
There are a number of techniques to check in your tennis form such as:
- Stretching and strengthen your wrist and forearm muscles.
- Your racquet is the right weight and size for you, a racquet that is not too big or too heavy for you to ensures that there will not be extra stress placed on your elbow.
- Use two hands for your back swing.
- Use your shoulder and upper arm muscles to relive the pressure that is put on your elbow.
- Wear a brace on your elbow.
All of these techniques can be used with each other to help prevent tennis elbow. If you first begin to feel a small pain in your elbow joint that feels like tennis elbow, you can get relief by icing the area for 10 to 20 minutes a 2 to 3 times over the day.
What exercises help with tennis elbow?
There are a number of exercises which can help to reduce the effects of tennis elbow. It is important to note that these exercises must be done once any inflammation around your elbow has subsided. These exercise will gently build the muscle in your forearm and will help to prevent any reoccurrence of tennis elbow.
It is import to check with your doctor or physiotherapist if you are ready to begin these exercises after the inflammation of the muscle has reduced.
Since poor grip is one of the main causes of tennis elbow it is important to ensure that you have good grip to prevent tennis elbow from occurring. A fist clench exercise is a great way to improve your grip and can be easily done at home using a household items such as a table and a towel.
- Sit at the table with your forearm resting on the table.
- Hold a rolled up towel in your hand.
- Squeeze the towel in your hand and hold this for 10 seconds.
- Release and repeat this 10 times.
- Repeat the same process for your other arm.
Supination with a dumbbell
This exercise will work the supinator muscle in your forearm. This is the large muscle in your forearm which is attached to your elbow which gives you the ability to turn your palm upwards.
For this exercise you will need a 1kg dumbbell.
- Sit on a chair with your elbow resting on your knee.
- Hold the dumbbell downward vertically
- Rotate your arm so that your palm is facing upwards.
- Return to the starting position.
- Make sure that this exercise is isolated to your lower arm while keeping your elbow and upper arm motionless.
- Repeat this 20 times on each arm.
A wrist lift will work a group of muscles known as the wrist flexors. They are small muscles which connect to the elbow from the wrist.
For this exercise you will also need your 1kg dumbbell.
- Sit on a chair holding your dumbbell with your knee resting on your knee and your palm facing upwards.
- Bend your wrist slowly, flexing it towards your body.
- Hold this for 10 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times on each side.
- Try to keep this movement isolated to your wrist, keeping the rest of your arm still.
Like your wrist flexor muscles, the wrist extension muscles will be responsible for extending your wrist. These muscles will connect into your elbow and can be subject to overuse especially when using a racquet for tennis.
For this exercise you will also need your 1kg dumbbell.
- Sit on a chair holding your 1kg weight and your palm facing downwards.
- Rest your elbow comfortably on your knee.
- Keep your palm facing down and extend your wrist towards your body.
- If this move is too challenging, try this without the weight.
- Return to the starting position and repeat this 10 times on each side.
- Try to keep this movement also isolated to your wrist, keep the rest of your arm still.
Be sure to check out the Fizfit range of straps and supports. Our range includes an elbow strap which provides maximum shock absorption from repetitive sport such as tennis.