Commonly referred to as tennis elbow,
lateral epicondylitis can occur in many different sports, including
how lateral epicondylitis occurs, ways for preventing this injury, as
well as how to treat it can greatly reduce your time lost from sports,
and keep you healthy and off the sidelines.
is Tennis Elbow?
It is a common term that refers to an overuse
type of injury to the
elbow. It is better described as lateral epicondylitis. The lateral
epicondyle of the humerus is the prominent bone towards the outside of
the arm at the elbow.
This boney prominence is the
site of attachment
for the forearm extensors. These muscles help to produce wrist
extension, as well as being able to turn your hand into supination. The
extensor muscles attach through a common tendon onto the lateral
epicondyle. Epicondylitis refers to an inflammation of the epicondyle,
and the surrounding soft tissues.
Learn more about elbow anatomy
elbow is generally caused by overuse of the extensor muscles. This can
occur with many different sports activities, as well as with activities
of daily living. Anything that requires wrist extension or forearm
supination. The back hand stroke in tennis is very commonly associated
with tennis elbow. It can also be seen with golfers, baseball players,
as well as with those who perform repetitive motions with work
Tennis elbow often begins as a pain or discomfort on the outside of the
elbow, occuring primarily after activities. This soreness may last for
several hours, but resolves rather quickly. As you continue the
aggravating activities, the pain increases, beginning to occur during
your athletic activities. Eventually, you may begin to experience pain
with daily activities such as turning a door knob, gripping, or holding
Swelling is not common with lateral epicondylitis, however, you may
that radiates through the muscles of the forearm, and you may
experience some muscle spasm, or knotting of the muscles as well.
Treating tennis elbow successfully centers around several different
factors. The first and most important one being rest. It is necessary
to decrease the activities that cause your pain. As with most overuse
injuries, your body gets stuck in a chronic inflmmatory cycle. The
tissues are irritated and inflammed, leading to pain and discomfort. If
the stress that causes the irritation is removed, the body can begin to
heal and resolve the inflammation.
essential component of treating tennis elbow. Application of an ice
pack or ice massage
several times a day, especially after
actively using your elbow can help to reduce the inflammation in the
area, as well as decrease soreness. An ice pack wrap
is an excellent way to treat tennis elbow, and offers the flexibility
of both compression and ice at the same time.
Stretching of the forearm muscles
can also help to
reduce stress on the lateral epicondyle. Proper stretching of both the
forearm extensors and flexors, done several times a day can help reduce
Learn about improving your flexibility
In addition to rest, ice, and stretching, there are
braces that can be worn to help reduce the stress on the lateral
epicondyle during athletic activities. These braces are simply
compression straps that are worn around the arm, usually just below the
elbow. They help to distribute the stress from activity throughout the
forearm muscles, rather than isolating the pull on just the epicondyle.
Talk with your certified athletic trainer or family physician for more
information regarding an elbow strap.
The keys to preventing most injuries centers around a gradual increase
in activities, proper warm up and stretching, proper mechanics, and
having adequate strength and balance. Prevention of
lateral-epicondylitis is no different.
Gradually increasing activities is essential to
prevent overuse injuries. Look at any organized sport...every
professional organization, college or high school team has a preseason
which they use to get into shape, work out the bugs, and get ready for
the year. Your activity should be no different. If your goal is to be
able to play tennis for 3 hours at a time, 4 days a week, start off
slow. Begin with 1-2 hours of light hitting 2-3 times a week, and then
gradually increase your activity levels over 2-3 weeks. Your body will
up before activity helps the body in several
ways. Your muscles rely on oxygen in order to perform. This is
delivered by blood flow to the area. A good warm up, one in which you
break a sweat, helps to increase blood flow to the extremities, and
warm up the muscles. Stretching prior to activity is also important.
After a proper warm up, stretch the major muscle groups, and any areas
that are of concern. Muscles that are stretched out are ready to work,
and will produce more power and function better than cold, tight
muscles. I can't say enough about warming up and stretching for
Maintaining proper strength is another component of
tennis elbow prevention. Because this injury primarily involves the
wrist extensors, some type of forearm exercise may be beneficial for
improving your strength. As strength improves, you are less likely to
overload the muscles. Talk with your certified athletic trainer or
family physician regarding proper strengthening exercises for these
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, can be a frustrating injury,
found with many different sports. Understanding the signs of lateral
epicondylitis, ways to treat this injury, and proper prevention
techniques can help to keep you off the sidelines.
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