What is it?
An overuse injury that leads to pain on the inside (golfer’s) or outside (tennis) of the elbow. The medical name for golfer’s elbow is medial epicondylitis, and tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. The medial and lateral epicondyles are the bony prominences on the either side of your elbow where the tendons from your finger and wrist muscles attach. Repetitive or prolonged strain on these tendons can cause micro trauma that results in inflammation. Although these can be very painful conditions, they do not cause long-lasting damage.
- Pain and tenderness on the inside or outside of the elbow
- Weakness of the forearm, especially with activities that require gripping
- Difficulty fully straightening or bending your wrist or elbow
- Pain can spread into your upper/lower arm
Treatment through physiotherapy is often the first and only treatment required. Primary management of golf or tennis elbow is aimed toward reducing the inflammation and pain through activity modification—put simply, if it hurts, don’t do it! Bracing, acupuncture and heat/ice may also be helpful in this stage. Treatment may also include manual therapy (soft tissue and joint mobilization), progressive exercise and gradual return to all activity. A skilled physiotherapist will be able to analyze your mechanics and provide suggestions to prevent a recurrence.
Tips to keep you playing more this Summer:
Shoulder and thoracic spine mobility
In order to practice good stroke mechanics, you will need full range of motion in your shoulders and upper back. Without full extension and rotation of your thoracic spine you will not be able to utilize your backswing or follow-through to your fullest potential, leaving your arms to produce more of the force. A simple exercise to improve thoracic mobility is called the 90/90.
Lay on your side and bend your top leg so that your hip is at at 90-degree angle. Actively push your knee into the floor, or if you have lower back pain then into a rolled-up towel to stabilize your lower back. Without letting your hips move, open your chest to the ceiling and try to touch your top shoulder to the floor behind you. Return to the starting position and repeat 10x/side.
With faulty mechanics, frequent training or injury, our muscles and fascia can become tight, damaged, and develop knots and adhesions. This can lead to altered movement patterns, soft tissue fatigue, increased injury risk and even a decrease in performance. This is where self-myofascial release comes in: a great strategy to promote regeneration and recovery. Using a tennis ball to apply compression to the muscle stimulates blood flow to the area, relaxes the nerves, releases knots and adhesions, and loosens, regenerates, and promotes recovery of the muscle.
Simply place the tennis ball between your forearm arm and a wall or table, applying as much pressure as is tolerable, and slowly roll the ball up/down, move your wrist and fingers for approximately two minutes on each side.
Similar to the myofascial release, a few minutes of stretching after each game can go a long way to minimize the strain on the forearm muscles.
Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a dynamic type of stretching that is performed repetitively and targets lengthening the muscle and fascia. AIS stretching focuses on contracting the opposing muscle to allow the target muscle to relax. For example, when you stretch the wrist flexors you want to contract the wrist extensors which forces the wrist flexors to relax and stretch with more ease. The key is focusing on contracting the opposing muscle, then stretching the muscle as far as it will go before applying a gentle overpressure with your other hand.
Improving your overall strength is one of the best ways to prevent golf/tennis elbow. It can be especially effective if you start working on this 1-3 months before the tennis or golf season begins, but it is never too late to start! Working with a fitness professional who can design you a well-balanced program to work on core strength, grip strength and movement work is key not only to prevent injuries but also will help you improve your game!
Check your stroke and swing
Booking a session with a golf or tennis pro can help you recognize any bad habits you have with your specific swing or stroke on the golf course or tennis court. Most clubs and courses offer a variety of options for group, semi-private and private lessons.