If you have been playing tennis for at least a little while, it is possible that you've dealt with a tennis elbow injury or know someone who has.
Tennis elbow, otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis, is a very common injury that many suffer from. It isn't an injury exclusive to tennis players, as anyone who performs tasks with repetitive motions can be at risk.
Even still it's an injury that is prevalent in the tennis scene and knowing how to treat it or prevent it is very important.
I often hear people asking whether or not they need to stop playing tennis with tennis elbow.
The answer to this question is a little bit complicated because it isn't really about just resting your arm.
You absolutely should rest your arm and take a break from playing. Especially if you are experiencing pain when swinging your racket or when you make contact with the ball.
You will not recover if you continue to aggravate the injury. To really nip the tennis elbow problem in the bud you need to address the reasons you are getting injured in the first place.
Examine Your Technique
Your technique may need some improvement if you are getting tennis elbow through normal play.
Often times the way you swing your racket is the culprit in these situations. Other times it can be something as simple as the way you grip your racket.
Either way the recommended course of action is to get some advice from a tennis coach or a more experienced player.
Have your form evaluated and more often than not you will receive excellent advice on how to correct the little mistakes you are making.
Your overall tennis game will improve because of tips like this and you will be playing in a much safer fashion, lessening the likelihood of becoming injured.
Proper Equipment is Important
Sometimes your technique isn't the underlying issue and you need to think about your equipment.
Even the best tennis players would be at somewhat of a disadvantage when not using the right racket. Make sure that the racket you are playing with fits your hand properly and that you are comfortable with the grip.
Furthermore, you need to pay close attention to the tension of the racket as well. You don't want it to be too tight or too loose.
When you make contact with the ball, the vibrations caused by making impact should not cause you too much discomfort. If there is a lot of discomfort then decreasing the tension by making it five pounds looser might be the way to go.
Experiment a bit and you should find the optimal tension for yourself.
Wearing something like a compression sleeve also helps to support your elbow and muscles while playing.
Many tennis professionals play wearing these and it is something you will want to look into purchasing if you feel you could use the extra support.
Luckily compression sleeves are made from very breathable materials and feel great to wear no matter the conditions. Making these few changes to your set up could definitely help protect you from injury. But remember:
Never Neglect Warming Up
In many cases people have injured themselves playing tennis because they do not take the time to warm up properly.
You should develop a warm up routine for yourself that you will use every time before you play a round of tennis or get into a serious practice session. Try to dedicate around a half an hour to warming up.
Good examples of things you can do to warm up for tennis are jogging, stretches and then practice swings.
Getting your body loosened up and ready for more rigorous play will leave you feeling much better at the end of the day. You'll be at less of a risk for getting a tennis elbow injury and also less likely to to hurt yourself in other ways.
Don't be too impatient to get right into the game. Preparedness is key.
Cool Yourself Down
How you take care of yourself after you play tennis matters quite a bit too.
Remembering to do a few cool down exercises really helps your joints not to stiffen up. Stretches can be excellent if your body is feeling up to them.
After the cool down exercises it is recommended to ice your elbow for between 10 and 15 minutes. This can stave off inflammation and leave you feeling much more relaxed.
What to Do When You Do Have Tennis Elbow?
If you are dealing with a case of tennis elbow despite having taken the precautions listed above, you shouldn't fret.
Tennis elbow can be a very annoying injury to have. Overall it is a painful condition but is one that is very treatable.
👨⚕️ Go see your physician to get proper medical advice and to understand how severe your injury is. Usually simply taking anti-inflammatory medications and resting your elbow is enough to relieve the problem. You should avoid playing tennis while you are having flare up. If you continue to do the tasks and motions that caused you to get tennis elbow in the first place, it is only going to aggravate the injury. Taking a few weeks to rest and take care of yourself should be enough.
Remember to ice your elbow as well to help manage discomfort. If your injury is more nagging and stubborn than normal you may need some physical therapy.
Stretching routines and certain exercises can be performed to strengthen yourself. This is usually only performed once the inflammation has already been dealt with.
Other treatments such as massage therapy and acupuncture are popular ways to help manage pain as well.
Tennis elbow is a common injury but it is one you can do your best to prevent. You can't avoid the possibility of getting tennis elbow entirely, but doing what you can to improve your form will help exponentially.
Always make sure that you are playing with a racket that is the right fit for you with the proper tension level that makes you comfortable.
Remember to wear your compression sleeve to support your elbow as much as possible.
Warm up for a tennis match with exercises, stretches and practice swings. Take the time to cool down after and ice your elbow. Using the above advice will help you to stay injury free as much as possible. This way you can enjoy the game while feeling satisfied and happy.