How to get rid of tennis and golfer’s elbow for good
You have never played tennis nor golf, but you still have sharp pain in your elbow? These conditions affect ordinary people more often than professional athletes. These are two separate conditions with almost identical symptoms and treatments. If you suspect to have one of these problems, this article will help you identify it.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis affects adults aged between30 and 50 years. This condition is caused by straining of the wrist flexors which leads to inflammation of the external part of your elbow and forearm. If you suffer from tennis elbow, the most affected muscle groups will be the ones that you use when bending your wrist upwards.
The name is a bit misleading since tennis is the cause only in 5 % percent of the cases. You can have this condition by doing any sort of repetitive movement of your wrist like painting or using tools like carpenters or butchers do. If you’re a musician or a programmer, you can get it too.
- At-home test: Bend your injured arm in the elbow and keep it in front of yourself with your palm facing upward. With your middle finger push upward, use the other hand as counter-pressure. If you feel pain, you probably have tennis elbow. If you don’t, you have an issue with your cervical spine.
What are the symptoms of the tennis elbow?
Extend your arm in front of yourself with your palm facing down. You have tennis elbow if you feel pain in the upper or outer part of your elbow. You can feel constant pain or only during specific movements like when you twist the door handle or perhaps you won’t be able to do any push-ups.
Consult your doctor if:
- you can’t raise your arm,
- you have a lump on your elbow,
- sharp pain prevents you from doing everyday activities,
- the area around your elbow is swollen or red.
What is golfer’s elbow?
The golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis is the opposite of tennis elbow. It’s caused by an overuse of flexor on your wrist. You can get it by doing repetitive activities that require bending or twisting your wrist. This condition affects muscles that get activated when you bend your wrist towards your palm.
Like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow isn’t caused by playing too much golf. It can be caused by any repetitive activity during which you bend your wrist:
- shovel work,
- assembly line work,
- computer work.
What are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow?
Excessive use of wrist flexors that cause pain in the inner part of your forearm when you lift your arm or forearm, pain during a twisting motion of your forearm or when you clench your hand. The area can be swollen or tender to touch. Other symptoms include stiff elbow, weak grip, or wrist.
How to treat these conditions?
The treatment in both cases is very similar. The first step is rest, avoid the activity that caused the pain. The next step is immobilization. Use bandages or athletic tape to restrict the motion.
You can start with stretching exercises from the beginning. They can significantly lower the tension in your elbow. You can do the stretching exercises multiple times a day for 20 to 30 seconds at a time.
- If you suffer from the tennis elbow, extend the affected arm with your palm facing downward. With the other hand pull on your fingers towards yourself. You should feel a stretch alongside the external part of your forearm.
- If you suffer from the golfer’s elbow, extend the affected arm with your palm facing upward. With the other hand pull on the fingers down and toward yourself. You should feel a stretch alongside your inner forearm.
- Tip from us: Check out video from Tomáš Pošvanc. They offer specific video guides on how to stretch tennis and golfer’s elbow.
Approximately after two weeks, once the pain subsides, you can add some strength exercises. They are crucial when treating either of these conditions and you shouldn’t underestimate their importance. Keep your strength trainings regular about two times a week, three sets of 10 to 15 reps.
- Exercises for the tennis elbow: sit at the table. Lay your affected arm on the table. The palm is facing the ground. Your wrist is leaning on the edge of the table, you can move your hand freely up and down. The other arm is relaxed by your side. With the affected hand grab a dumbbell (try 5 kg dumbbell). Slowly lower the dumbbell to create a 90° angle and feel how the stretch in the external part of your forearm. To move the dumbbell back up, help yourself with the other hand.
- Exercises for the golfer’s elbow: sit at the table. Lay your affected arm on the table. Your palm is facing upwards. Your wrist is at the edge of the table, you can move your hand freely up and down. The other arm is relaxed by your side. With the affected hand grab a dumbbell (try 5 kg dumbbell). Slowly lower the dumbbell to create a 90° angle and feel how the stretch in the inner part of your forearm. To move the dumbbell back up, help yourself with the other hand.
At-home massages as treatment. It’s a painful but an effective solution. The tendons in this area are stiff, it’s important to massage them to heal them.
- A massage technique for tennis elbow: Extend the problematic arm in front of yourself. With your thumb on the healthy hand search for the most painful spot. Apply pressure with your thumb to the sore area and grab firmly your whole elbow. Move the problematic arm in the wrist up and down and rotate your forearm in the elbow.
- A massage technique for golfer’s elbow: The golf elbow pain comes from bicep or triceps tendons. By applying pressure to the soft tissue, we learn where the pain comes from. If you feel pain right below your bicep, apply pressure to the area with your thumb and preform a bicep lift without any weight. If you feel the pain in the triceps find its ligament on the back side of your elbow and apply pressure with your thumb there. Once more preform a bicep lift without any weight.
How can a physiotherapist help you?
If you cannot get rid of the pain on your own, pay a visit to your doctor or an experienced physiotherapist. Other effective treatments for both tennis and golf elbow:
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy
- Laser therapy
- Hot therapy wraps
- Steroid injections
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
How long is the treatment process?
This type of injury takes a long time to heal. Between 12 to 24 months. Be patient and don’t overstrain your elbow right after you feel some release. If the regular treatment doesn’t help you and after two year of therapy your elbow is still not fully functional, you can opt for surgery. The success of surgery is debatable, and you shouldn’t rely on the magical hands of a surgeon.