Last time on the court, you were playing tennis with full spirit. But after some time, you developed chronic elbow pain. It is ‘Tennis Elbow’ which many tennis players are not familiar with.
So, what is tennis elbow, what are symptoms, and how to get rid of it? In this article, we are going to discuss all this in detail.
It’s necessary for tennis players, especially beginners, to understand this condition so you can overcome it and take your game to the next level without any hurdle.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common form of elbow pain that occurs in the outer part of the elbow. The name suggests that this form of tendinitis occurs only in tennis, but that’s not true.
Tennis elbow is not limited to just tennis, it can occur in any racquet sport like badminton, pickleball and tennis polo, etc.
Moreover, tennis elbow can also occur due to everyday activities like heavy object lifting. In other words, tennis elbow can occur due to any repetitive activity.
But, in this article, we will discuss Tennis Elbow in the context of tennis only.
Tennis elbow affects your tendon (a connectivity tissue that connects the bone with muscle). It occurs when you hit the ball with a tensed elbow.
It means, it occurs when you exert most of the energy into your elbow which results in ache, swelling, and even small tears in the muscle.
Tennis elbow is similar to a golfer’s elbow. The only difference is golfer’s elbow occurs on the inner part of the elbow while a tennis elbow on the outer part of the elbow.
Tennis elbow is a rare condition for young players. In other words, your chance of developing a tennis elbow is 1% – 3% if your age is under 40.
But, it’s still worthy to understand the causes and prevention of tennis elbow so you can get rid of it if it happens to you.
Generally, the tennis elbow goes away on its own within a period of 1 to 2 months. But if it gets severe, it can take up to 6 months or even 2 years.
But, you can’t stop your passion for tennis for this time. Right?
Tennis elbow is easy to get rid of it if you treat it in the right way. So, you need a strategy to keep up with your passion while being recovered from this pain. Stick with us, we’re going to help you out of this injury.
Tennis elbow occurs in the arm you use the most. For example, if you are a right-handed player, you may get it in your right elbow.
Where does tennis elbow hurt?
As the name suggests, tennis elbow hurts the outer part of the elbow right in the muscle where your forearm meets the elbow.
Tennis elbow hurts the muscle because it causes small tears in the muscle. If you keep performing the activity (a repetitive activity that caused the injury), these small tears may spread with time and cause stress on the rest of your arm.
If you don’t get the right tennis elbow treatments, it may last longer than expected. Even it may take 1-2 years to recover.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
One of the most common symptoms of tennis elbow is a pain in the outer part of your elbow.
The symptoms of tennis elbow may vary from person to person. In some cases, it is just a little pain that heals on its own in a shorter period.
While in other cases, tennis elbow can cause severe pain that can keep you awake at night or you can’t even hold a cup of coffee or torquing the knob of the door.
You may also feel pain while shaking a hand or lifting even lighter objects.
In tennis elbow, you may feel a weak grip over the objects and a mildly swollen elbow.
The bad thing about tennis elbow is that it develops over time. It means you can’t relate it to a particular activity.
With these symptoms, you can get what does tennis elbow feels like?
Note: Tennis elbow causes pain only in the elbow part rather than in the hand and fingers. If you are having pain in the arm including hand and fingers, then it may be something else. You need to visit your physiotherapist.
Tennis Elbow Causes
So far, we have mentioned that tennis elbow occurs because of repetitive activities. But a few other specific causes are necessary to know.
On a personal note, whenever it happens, take it seriously and treat it right away.
So, what causes tennis elbow? Here are a few important things that you should keep in your notes.
- Poor Tennis Techniques:
Like any other sport, a poor technique increases the chance of injuries so do with tennis techniques. To avoid such injuries, you must learn tennis techniques like singles, doubles, forehands, and groundstroke properly.
- Competitive Level
As your game level increases, the chances of getting a tennis elbow also increase. For example, class A players have a higher rate of tennis elbow as compared to class C players.
Other than this, tennis elbow occurs if you start a lot of tennis practice after a long time of being inactive or if you do too much practice on a beginner level.
- Racquet Type:
The type of tennis equipment can also cause tennis elbow. For example, equipment without a shock damper transmits the vibration back to the arm. This extra shock and vibration also cause this pain.
Other than this, string tension, grip size, and tennis ball weight are also the causes of tennis elbow.
- Physical Condition:
Your physical condition also contributes to the tennis elbow. If your arm and wrist are weak, you are more likely to be injured.
Moreover, if you were previously injured, then you have a higher chance of tennis elbow.
How to Treat Tennis Elbow?
The good thing about tennis elbow is that, in some cases, it heals on its own. But in this case, you need to be very careful about your daily activities.
The amount of time to recover from tennis elbow varies from person to person. Whatever treatment you apply, don’t rush for quick recovery. It may worsen the condition if you don’t give proper time to treatment or rest to your arm.
Here is how to cure tennis elbow.
The first step towards speedy tennis elbow recovery is ‘Rest‘. You need proper rest and give your elbow a break from your daily activities. This is the easiest cure for tennis elbow.
Moreover, try to decrease your tennis training sessions and participate less in the game or heavy work activities. Plus, stop lifting heavy objects.
- Tennis Elbow Brace:
Another easy way to heal is to wear a tennis elbow brace. A tennis elbow brace keeps your muscle warm which helps in quick recovery. If your pain is getting severe, you should wear a tennis elbow brace the whole day.
- Racquet Check:
A poor quality racquet is another reason for this injury. You need to check the quality of your tennis racquet to avoid such injuries. On a beginner level, a light-weight racquet is recommended which reduces the stress on your forearm muscles.
Moreover, a stiffer racquet or a racquet with loose strings is another way to prevent tennis elbow. If you play with an oversized racquet, replacing it with a smaller head-size racquet can help to prevent tennis elbow.
You might be wondering how to treat tennis elbow at home? Icing the elbow is another easy way to prevent this condition. This method helps to reduce swelling and pain.
Massaging the area of pain helps to increase the blood flow and keep it warm. This practice is also helpful to cure tennis elbow. The best massage for tennis elbow is ‘ice massage’.
How To Prevent Tennis Elbow
The key to preventing tennis elbow is not to overuse your elbow. Any activity that causes pain in your forearm or elbow, stop it or reduce it.
Here are a few ways to prevent tennis elbow.
- Always do some warm-up before practicing tennis.
- Check your racquet, if it’s too heavy to hold replace it with a lightweight racquet. Always use a tennis racquet which is appropriate for your body and strength.
- Loosen the string tension of your racquet. This will help to absorb vibration and shock which might be, otherwise, transmitted to your arm.
- Take professional tennis training to improve your tennis techniques.
- If you, sometimes, feel little pain in your forearm in the game, use a tennis elbow brace or tennis elbow strap.
- Your hand grip should not be too loose or too tight. Adjust the handgrip size properly.
- Always do an ice massage after a tennis game. If you are a beginner tennis player, reduce the amount of playing time.
- Do exercise daily to keep your physical shape in good condition.
- Do wrist and forearm exercises to make it strong.
Tennis Elbow Exercises
There are a few exercises for tennis elbow which can help to prevent and cure tennis elbow. Such exercises help to reduce muscle stiffness and increase flexibility.
The following are the best exercises for tennis elbow.
1. Wrist Extension:
Wrist extension exercise helps to bend the wrist properly which makes forearm muscles strong so they are not affected when you overuse them in tennis.
Equipment Required: Small dumbbell
- While sitting on a table or chair, hold the dumbbell in your hand in such a way that your palm is facing down. Rest your elbow on your knee or the handle of the chair.
- Curl your wrist towards your leg while facing the palm down.
- Move the hand back to the starting position.
- Repeat this 10-15 times.
- Make sure your arm remains still while doing this exercise.
Note: You can do this exercise without a dumbbell if the pain gets severe.
2. Twisting Towel
This exercise is also beneficial. This is the easiest exercise for tennis elbow.
Equipment Required: Towel
- Sit on a table or chair. Make sure your whole body is relaxed.
- Now twist the towel with both hands. Make sure both hands twist the towel in the opposite direction. For example, if the right-hand twist the towel in a clockwise direction, then the left hand should twist in an anti-clockwise direction.
- Do this exercise 10-15 times.
3. Wrist Flexion:
This exercise is similar to wrist extension. The only difference is that your palm faces upward.
Equipment Required: Small dumbbell
- Sit on a chair. Rest your elbow on the handle of the chair while holding the dumbbell in your hand.
- Curl your wrist towards your body.
- Move the hand back to the normal position.
- Repeat this 10-15 times.
Note: You can do this exercise without a dumbbell if your pain is severe.
Despite the name, tennis elbow can happen to anyone who performs repetitive activities that involve the wrist and forearm. Tennis elbow is a common injury that needs a little treatment to cure.
But in some cases, it gets severe that may lead to chronic pain and you may not be able to hold even light objects like a cup of coffee.
The good news is that tennis elbow can be prevented and cured with proper treatment and exercises.
Moreover, paying attention to your tennis equipment and tennis techniques can help to prevent such injuries.
Follow the treatment and prevention guidelines and do tennis elbow exercises that we mentioned above, it will help to prevent and cure tennis elbow quickly.
If your condition gets worse, consult your physiotherapist immediately.
If you find this article helpful, do share it with your family, friends, or teammates who may find it helpful too.
1. Why don’t Professional Tennis Players get tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is caused by various reasons, one of them is poor tennis techniques. As professional tennis players keep improving their techniques, their chances of getting tennis elbow are reduced.
Moreover, they get professional training and coaching where they are taught how to prevent such injuries.
Another good reason is that tennis elbow occurs mostly after you reach 30 which is the typical retirement age for professional tennis players.
2. Should I stop playing tennis for a while if I have a tennis elbow?
The answer is ‘Not necessarily’. If you have mild pain in your elbow, you can keep continuing your practice by following tennis elbow prevention guidelines. You should also reduce tennis sessions.
However, if your pain is getting severe, you should stop tennis sessions immediately until you are recovered. Treating tennis elbow should be your priority rather than practicing tennis.
Moreover, pay attention to your equipment. If it’s too heavy, you need to replace it with a lighter one because a heavy racquet causes stress on your forearm which damages your tendons.
3. What is the best cure for tennis elbow?
The best cure for tennis elbow is the rest. You need to give your forearm a break from all those activities that involve repetitive tasks.
Few days of break is far better than continuing to play with tennis elbow which may severe the condition.
4. What happens if a tennis elbow goes untreated?
Generally, the tennis elbow doesn’t lead to serious problems. But you must get the proper treatment to get rid of it. Because if you continue practicing tennis regularly, it may weaken your forearm.
As a result, you may not have a strong grip while holding even lighter objects like a cup of tea.
5. What is the permanent cure for tennis elbow?
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for this injury. All you can do is to follow tennis elbow prevention and treatment guidelines. Here are a few of them below.
- Do tennis elbow exercises like wrist extension, wrist flexion, and towel twisting, etc.
- Always do a warm-up before starting a tennis session.
- Pay attention to your racquet. If it’s a heavier racquet, replace it with a lighter one. If strings are too tight, loosen them a little bit.
- Ice the elbow after the tennis session.
6. How long does tennis elbow last?
Usually, a tennis elbow may take 1-2 months to heal on its own. But in some cases, when it gets severe, this elbow pain may last for 6 months to even 2 years.
The general recovery time for tennis elbow is 6 to 8 weeks.
Whenever a tennis elbow occurs, treat it immediately otherwise it may get worse which may lead to a weak grip problem.