You might have felt it reaching for that last backhand shot. Or while trying to put some extra mustard on that serve for match point. And most likely when you woke up the next morning and picked up your toothbrush.
Lateral Epicondylitis, or “Tennis Elbow”, is a fairly common condition among anyone who’s serious about their tennis game. It occurs when the extensor muscles of the forearm become inflamed from certain repetitive movements. The result is soreness of the forearm muscles, tenderness felt on the outside of the elbow, and aching and stiffness in the joint upon waking in the morning.
The following movements, performed over and over again while playing, will often result in tennis elbow:
1) Bending the wrist extensively, as in a late forehand swing.
2) Using poor technique on a one-handed backhand.
3) Snapping and twisting the wrist while attempting to serve with power.
There are several simple guidelines for minimizing the risk of tennis elbow:
1) Be mindful of your form, and correct it as needed, both during practice and while warming up for a match.
2) Targeted strength and flexibility exercises will help these muscles stay balanced and minimize the risk of injury.
3) Getting regular Chiropractic adjustments in your cervical and upper thoracic spine will keep the nerves of your neck, shoulder and arm in optimal condition.
4) Ice therapy with any sign of tenderness or inflammation, and getting adequate rest to allow your muscles to recover before exerting them again.
Fortunately, tennis elbow doesn’t usually result in any long-term conditions as long as it’s identified early and treated properly. Normally ice packs and some extra rest is all it takes to recover.
However, preventing an injury is much more effective than treating an injury. Understanding the biomechanics of tennis elbow with a movement analysis is crucial. This knowledge will help you develop practice habits and exercises that will train your body to stay balanced and avoid the movements that lead to this painful condition. This ounce of prevention will keep you popping open fresh cans of tennis balls all day long instead of being wrapped up in ice packs on the sidelines.
Daniel Sim, DPT
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