Your Best Treatment for Tennis Elbow Pain

 By: Trina Rowe
Tennis Elbow is a common sports injury---even among non-players. It causes pain that limits your ability to play sports, or even do normal daily activities in some cases. Despite the fact that Tennis Elbow is a common problem, very few of my clients really understand what it is or what the proper sports therapy is for this condition.

Tennis elbow, known properly as lateral epicondylitis, is inflammation and pain of the lateral forearm near the elbow. In some cases, tearing of the muscle actually occurs from a sports injury. Lateral epicondylitis usually results from overuse of the extensor muscles that insert onto the lateral epicondyle. A commonly implicated muscle is the extensor carpi radialis.

Despite the location of the pain being at the elbow, lateral epicondylitis is mostly influenced by what is going on at the wrist. The muscles that attach to the lateral epicondyle extend the wrist (like on a backswing in tennis) and assist with turning of the hand (like when turning a door knob). They also function to stabilize the wrist during times when and external force is acting on the wrist but the wrist itself is not moving.

The first sports therapy treatment for Tennis Elbow pain you should perform is to rest the muscles of your forearm and ice the area to decrease inflammation. Identify the activity that brought the elbow pain on (it is usually a sports injury caused from a repetitive motion like a tennis swing---hence the name), and avoid that activity until the pain resolves.

The next treatment for Tennis Elbow you should perform is to stretch the muscles-gently. Extend your arm straight out in front of you and bend your wrist so that your fingers point straight down. Use your opposite hand to apply pressure and push the fingers of your extended arm toward your body. Hold for 30 seconds x 3 on each side. Don't be overly aggressive the sports therapy in the beginning or you may further damage tissue that is already irritated.

Long-term sports therapy of this issue is important to prevent return of Tennis Elbow pain. Strengthening of forearm muscles can increase their tolerance to activity and make them less susceptible to sports injury. Consider wrist extension curls with a 1-2# weight or theraband resistance.

A Bauerfeind brace like the Epitrain can be another effective sports therapy treatment for Tennis Elbow. The brace will support the joint and minimize impact of forces on the joint. Also look at your swing form if you notice recurrent bouts of elbow pain. It may be worthwhile to consult with a tennis pro who can evaluate your technique and suggest modifications that will improve your swing mechanics.

Finally, don't neglect the important role that your equipment plays in managing lateral epicondylitis and avoiding sports injury. I recommend that my patients who play tennis modify their racquet type, string type and string tension to decrease the amount of force transferred from the racquet to the arm. Racquets with vibration dampening technology built in are a good foundation piece. Combine that with either natural gut or multifilament synthetic strings strung at the lower end of the tension range of your racquet to minimize impact forces on the arm and reduce the risk of sports injury. Avoid polyester strings at all costs if you are injured because though they perform well they are bad news for people with Tennis Elbow or shoulder pain.

For best results, take a multifaceted approach with treatment for tennis elbow. Rest is important but you shouldn't expect the problem to go a way permanently if you don't treat the underlying causes of this sports injury. When in doubt, seek advice from a medical professional trained in sports therapy.
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