Summer is knocking on our doors ! ☀️
Many people wait for this moment before taking part in their favorite sport!
However, this can lead to stress or injury caused by excessive activity.
Your body, not being used to the movements of your summer sports, becomes inflamed when you resume activities intensively and not gradually.
Two of the most common injuries are lateral epicondylitis and medial epicondylitis. These injuries are also nicknamed, as you may have guessed from the title of the article, "tennis elbow" and "golfer's elbow".
Despite its nickname, make no mistake, epicondylitis is not just for tennis or golf players 😉
Let's see what causes this pain and some possible solutions...
What is epicondylitis?
Lateral epicondylitisTennis elbow is the scientific name for a painful condition of the elbow.
It is an inflammation that occurs near a small protrusion of the arm bone (humerus) just above the elbow joint on the outside of the arm.
However, other areas of the forearm and wrist may be painful.
Epicondylitis involves the muscles of the forearm and affects the two opposite sides of the elbow, where the muscles attach to the joint. It involves inflammation of the tendons of these muscles and damage to their attachments to the elbow.
These conditions occur due to the irritation of various tendons and their slowing down in their ability to repair themselves.
When subjected to repeated strain or overuse, tendons become inflamed and degenerate.
The subject then suffers from tendinopathy, a medical term meaning a tendon disorder. Epicondylitis is a specific type of tendinopathy that affects a particular area of the elbow.
This injury affects between 1 and 3% of the population, and 50% of tennis players.
Causes of epicondylitis
Most often, the underlying extensor tendon of the index finger is the cause of this elbow pain. The tendon is a fibrous tissue that connects muscles to cartilage. It is used to stretch the muscles that are capable of tensing.
When you repeat a movement too often over a short period of time during a sports session or daily activity, you are working the same muscle by stretching the tendon to the extreme and this is what, in the long run, causes epicondylitis.
Thus, this inflammation is caused by overuse, trauma or stress to the extensor and flexor tendon of the forearm. This creates a micro-tear in the tendon at the elbow and is attached to the muscle that controls wrist and hand movements.
To learn more about tendons and epicondylitis or tennis elbow, go to this page of our site which will speak to you about the lateral epicondylitis.
What is the best way to treat epicondylitis?
After a diagnosis, the best treatment, we can't say it enough, is rest. You will need to reduce the amount of strain on your arm.
You may even have to stop your sport to take the time to heal yourself.
Cold can be applied to the painful area to decrease the inflammation. You will then need to restore the flexibility and strength of your sore arm muscles.
If the pain persists or returns with exertion, it is strongly recommended to consult a health professional.
A chiropractor will help you restore your joint to optimal function and will also suggest exercises to reduce the risk of injury.
Finally, it is important to stretch to prepare your body for and at the end of a sport. Also, remember to gradually increase the intensity of your sport so that your muscles can adapt as you go along.
A compression brace may also provide compression or stability to your elbow. Ultrasound treatment can also speed up healing.
Other options exist such as laser or shock wave therapy.
If you have pain that persists, it is recommended that you consult a professional such as a chiropractor.
Advice from our chiropractors
Get a more flexible racquet, this will reduce the excessive force transmitted at ball impact.
A flexible racket has a reduced string tension. The head of the racket should be large. You can also increase the diameter of the handle with anti-slip tape.
Rest between each session and don't forget your stretching!
During a match, make sure you are facing the net and that your posture is adequate, i.e. your head is straight, well aligned with your back.
It is important to stay steady on both legs. You don't want to be hunched over your leading shoulder (the shoulder that will hit the ball) because that can hurt your elbow. 🏌🏼♂️
Also, the hand should be in place and under control. You should not let your hand go in a different direction than what you want to do.
This is a very important point because it is often during attacks that micro tears of the tendon occur.
Exercises to prevent "tennis elbow" 🎾
If you are likely to suffer from elbow pain, here are a few tips exercices qui pourraient vous aider à les prévenir.
Extend your arm in front of you, palm down. You should gently bring the hand and fingers towards you with your other hand, without using force. There should be no pain from this stretch. If it does, bring your hand and fingers back more gently to stretch your tendon slightly.
Hold the position for 30 seconds, release and repeat three times.
Bend the elbow to a 90 degree angle and rest the forearm on a flat surface, palm down. Gently stretch the wrist upward to lift it off the table.
However, you should not feel any pain. Repeat the movement ten times. You can add weight, such as holding a water bottle, to increase resistance and build in strength to your muscles and tendons.
Same exercise as wrist extension, but palm facing up. Gently bend the wrist toward the ceiling to raise it off the table.
Again, you should not feel any pain. Repeat the flexion ten times. You can also add resistance weights for strengthening.
Strengthening of the grip
You will need a soft ball or so-called "stress ball". Simply hold the ball in one hand and squeeze it. Hold the position for five seconds, release and repeat ten times.
This is the most common exercise and is commonly referred to as the "hammer exercise". Use a hammer as a resistance weight.
You should hold it by the handle while keeping your elbow bent at 90 degrees on a flat surface. Slowly rotate the hammer toward the center of your body; the palm should rotate downward.
Then slowly reverse the movement to rotate the hammer outward, so your palm starts to rotate upward as the weight of the hammer head begins to pull on your arm muscles. Repeat ten times, but rest between each.
If you have any questions or symptoms related to tennis elbow or epicondylitis, do not hesitate to contact us to get a free consultation!
Canadian Chiropractic Association (CAA). 6 ways to manage tennis elbow and golfer's tendonitis. 18 février 2021. https://chiropractic.ca/fr/blogue/6-manieres-de-gerer-les-epicondylites-laterales-et-mediales/ (page consulted on August 4, 2022).
Association of Chiropractors of Quebec. Chiropractic for your pain - Tennis Elbow. (n.d.). https://www.chiropratique.com/fr/chiropratique/douleur/7-tennis-elbow.html?PCID=4 (page consulted on August 4, 2022).