In a perpetually sunny town like Los Angeles, people can play tennis year round. Many clients in my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic office do just that—they are rarely stopped by rain. But they can be stopped short in their enjoyment of tennis by a condition called tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is the lateral equivalent of golfers elbow (medial epicondylitis). It is felt as a pain on the outer part of the elbow especially when extending the wrist. The pain of tennis elbow can get worse over weeks or months.
Although called an epicondylitis, or inflammation of the lateral epicondyle, true inflammation of the area is rare. What is most common to this injury are micro tears of the muscle attaching from the lateral epicondyle of the humerus (upper arm) bone to the wrist. Yes, the tears can come from hitting thousands of backhands in tennis, but it also may just as likely occur from any repetitive motions stressing one of the muscles that extends the wrist (extensor carpi radialis brevis for those that care).
When one is suffering from tennis elbow, shaking hands, gripping or lifting objects can be excruciating. A point tenderness is ever present, so that pressing on the outer portion of the elbow will make even the toughest racquet raiders wince. The pain from tennis elbow can come about immediately, like when hitting a backhand in the wrong way, or it can take several days. Either way, you’ll need to get it treated if you develop this malady as tennis elbow rarely goes away on its own.
Treating Tennis Elbow
Never fear, relief from outer arm and elbow pain is here. Contact your local sports chiropractor if you are suffering from tennis elbow. Here is how we treat the painful backhand buster in my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic office:
- Ultrasound—the use of sonic waves to break inflammation and adhesions
- Myofascial release—or deep tissue muscle work of the forearm extensor muscles and surrounding ligamentous structures
- Chiropractic adjustments—of the elbow, either the radius (most likely) or ulna (occasionally);, also adjustments of the neck to make sure the nerve supply to the area is flowing freely
- Sports Rehab—to strengthen weak forearm muscles, and bring flexibility to tight ones
- Ice—as home care (see instructional video on general icing here)
- Rest—letting the area heal is crucial in resolving tennis elbow, so you might need to take a break from the court if you want your injury to heal. Sorry fanatics—you’ve got to think of the long term here
Preventing Tennis Elbow
Prevention is always key, and when it comes to the arm and elbow pain associated with tennis elbow, you will be wise to do just that—prevent. A good start to preventing tennis elbow is working on your backhand. Whether you hire an instructor, or just have a friend evaluate your swing, a poor backhand is often the cause of lateral epicondylitis.
Next, check your racquet. If your racquet handle is too small, forcing you to grip tightly, tennis elbow is right around the bend. Having the proper equipment in any sport is a big part of preventing injuries—it’s right up there with form. So is having racquet strings at the proper tightness; strings that are too tight can cause tennis elbow.
Further, any repetitive motion that requires twisting—like using a screwdriver—or extending the wrist (painting) can also stress the outer elbow. If there is no avoiding these motions, then strengthening and stretching the forearm muscles will be of paramount importance. A good elbow brace works beautifully, too, as it creates a new origin point for the wrist extensor muscles, allowing the fibers attaching to the lateral epicondyle to take a break.
You can get a tennis elbow brace at any sports chiropractor’s office. Along with chiropractic adjustments, physiotherapy and sports rehabilitation, your chiropractor should be able to help relieve your arm and outer elbow pain within a short time. If you are a tennis player and are having arm and elbow pain associated with tennis elbow and you live or work in the Beverly Hills or West Hollywood regions of Los Angeles (especially if you play at La Cienega Tennis Center in Beverly Hills, Plummer Park or Poinsettia Park in West Hollywood, or the Los Angeles Tennis Club in Hancock Park), or Palm Springs and Palm Desert cties of the Copachella Valley, please visit my sports chiropractic office. My tennis playing clients will attest that I can help make your tennis elbow pain disappear in straight sets, and even improve your overall game. Jumping over the net? Well, that’s another story.
-April 15, 2010