Let me be the first one to tell that tennis is the worst! It is a nagging injury that doesn't easily go away. After plenty of doctors visit and PT's rubbing out and stretching out the muscles around the elbow and only playing 1-2 a week (rarely serving) I can play pain free again. I will say it was worse in high school when I was 5'5 and 115 lbs. Now that I'm a normal sized adult and can lift a racquet with some muscle (I play with a 14oz racquet, yes that is very heavy, I rely on my timing and let the racquet do the work) the elbow issues have gone away. I am not a doctor nor claim to offer professional advice can I can offer my opinion from someone that has dealt with Elbow, Shoulder, and Wrist Injuries. I even took a cortisone shot or two in my day!
What is Tennis Elbow?
"Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse. Not surprisingly, playing tennis or other racquet sports can cause this condition. However, several other sports and activities can also put you at risk.
Tennis elbow is an inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from overuse — repeating the same motions again and again. This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow." - orthoinfo.aaos.org
So Why Did I Get Tennis Elbow?!
Overuse: Overworking any part of your body can lead to injury. The extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle helps stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight, so something like a tennis groundstroke takes it toll on the elbow. Other professions can get tennis elbow like carpenters, painters, or even butchers from that repetitive muscle overuse.
Age: I hate to break it to you older folk, but the most common age for tennis elbow is 30-50. With that said I had it when I was 16 and how often do you see that old guy or lady at the club wearing those ugly arm braces.
Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:
Pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow
Weak grip strength
How Do I Heal My Tennis Elbow?
Let's talk about the non surgical options, because you need more help than I can offer if you've had tennis elbow for more than a year and considering surgery!
Rest: Rest is always a great option, but let's be real... If you are anything like me, if you don't do something fun/active for more than a day or two you get ancy. My recovery time always takes a little longer because I can't sit still. (I have taken about 5 breaks in writing this article)
Aspirin: Taking anti inflammatories will usually help with the pain and the swelling. I try my best to avoid these devil products, but sometimes you just need a little help from modern medicine.
Physical Therapy: PT is probably the best answer for all your problems. I regret not lifting weights in high school. I would have loved to strengthen the muscles around my elbow and all the other muscles to make a physical sport (not a contact sport but still brutal on the arm and start and stop and quick movements on the hard courts) a little easier on the body. I would even recommend some Tom Brady TB12 Pliability exercises. Bands are a great way to warm up for your tennis sessions and a great way to strengthen the muscles around that elbow and the rest of the arm.
Brace thingy:There are hundreds of options for a tennis elbow brace out there on the market. Just as there hundreds of options for racquets, or shoes, ortennis grips there is an affordable elbow brace that can help alleviate some pain. At least it would be beneficial in the placebo effect way.
Steroid Injections: I don't recommend this method either, but sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do am I right? No you aren't taking Anabolic Steroids and going to look like Arnold in a couple days.... But it is the fastest way to reduce the swelling and pain and allow that elbow to heal. Andre Agassi use to take them (probably more than he should of) before a lot of his matches for his back problems.
So if you are suffering from Tennis Elbow, I am sorry, it's no fun... But there are ways to improve it and get back to playing at full strength - PAIN FREE! (That sounds nice doesn't it?) Take it easy on the tennis for a couple days, I know know maybe even a couple weeks. Strengthen and rehab not just the elbow, but everything that connects. The shoulders, the lats, the core, maybe even don't skip leg day..... Ok you can skip leg day.
What are you currently doing to treat your tennis elbow?