How to Treat and Prevent a Tennis Elbow

What is a Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Tennis elbow is an overuse and muscle strain injury. The cause is repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. The repeated motions and stress to the tissue may result in a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of your elbow.

It is also worth noting that tennis elbow is not restricted to racket sport players. People doing hard labour could also sustain a tennis elbow. Examples of such include carpenters and butchers. Even excessive computer mouse use could cause tennis elbow.

You might have a tennis elbow if you experience some pain when you grip an object like a coffee cup, or turn a doorknob after your recent tennis lesson. These are signs that you should make an appointment with your doctor.

In the tennis context, sustaining a tennis elbow may be due to the fact that the player has been playing with poor stroke techniques. This is especially the case if you use a one-handed backhand, or employ the backhand slice frequently.

Cures, Treatments and Preventive Measures for Tennis Elbows

Doctors may prescribe painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin, or patients may purchase over-the-counter medication. Of course, that is effective to a certain extent. However, it is only a temporary cure. Fret not, there are permanent and more effective cures and treatments that could help ease the pain of tennis elbow and get you back on the court as soon as possible!

One of the most effective ways to cure a tennis elbow is through physical therapy. If your tennis elbow has been persistent (more than three months), then you should seek the help of a physiotherapist. Often, the advice that your physiotherapist will give you is to rest.

Given that tennis elbow is something that may bug players for a temporary period of time, if you do not wish to seek professional treatment for tennis elbow, there are various other measures you can take to ease the pain.

One common method used on the professional tennis circuit to alleviate the pain is a compression sleeve. Novak Djokovic donned such a sleeve when he was coming back from an elbow injury at the 2018 Australian Open. Milos Raonic also used such a sleeve in 2014. Such a sleeve helps with improving your blood flow, as well as reducing soreness, thus speeding up the post-tennis session recovery process.

Milos Raonic wearing a compression sleeve at Wimbledon 2014

Milos Raonic wearing a compression sleeve at Wimbledon 2014

At the same time, such sleeves may improve the way you play tennis, especially in the latter stages of long tennis matches. Another plus-point about using a compression sleeve is temperature control. Sleeves help reduce the temperature of the player’s forearm, thus improving the endurance of the player. The use of a compression sleeve would certainly help with eliminating, or at least, reducing the pain of tennis elbow.

Carrying out appropriate rehabilitation exercises is also important to treating a tennis elbow. These exercises are actually very simple, involving the use of wrist and simple arm movements, and only requires basic everyday household items such as a towel. These exercises can also be done at anytime and anywhere, and would not require much time to perform.

One such exercise that requires no equipment is the wrist turn. Simply bend the elbow at a right angle, then extend the hand outwards, with the palm facing up. Twist the wrist around gradually, until your palm is facing down, and hold this position for approximately five seconds. Repeat this exercise ten times.

Another effective method is icing with a cooling pack. Icing helps in numbing the pain, as well as aiding the contraction of blood vessels in the elbow. It might be useful to bring along an ice pack to your next tennis session to help ease the pain of your tennis elbow.

A tennis elbow is often the result of improper stroke execution. You were probably relying too much on your forearm muscles when hitting your forehands and backhands. Proper stroke execution involves generating power from your legs, hips, and biceps as well.

If you are unsure whether you are hitting the ball correctly, book a session with one of our coaches. We will look into your footwork, stance, and swing to ensure that you have the correct technique. Tennis is a fun sport that should be enjoyed injury free!

Matthias Lee