How to Reduce the Pain of Tennis Elbow

by Gail Ausbun, Certified Personal Trainer

Pain, pain go away.

Tennis elbow is a very common ailment that doesn’t just occur with tennis players. Medial Epicondylitis is the official diagnosis, meaning the inside or medial aspect of the elbow, where the lower bone and upper bone of the arm hinge or articulate, is inflamed. That’s the medical description. In other words, inflammation occurs when the body is not moving in the appropriate manner. The mechanisms of movement at the joint of the elbow are being stressed either at the wrist or the shoulder. 

Stress at the wrist may occur when the grip of a tennis racket, ski pole, baby carrier or grocery bag, for example, are hard to maintain without compensating with alternative muscular-tendon units. If the tennis racket handle is too large or the weight of a baby and the angle of the baby carrier are difficult on the wrist/hand, then the assisting forearm muscles kick in. These muscles may also have a rotation component which then puts a torque on the elbow.

Likewise, the shoulder unit may not have a strong and stable base from which to hit a tennis ball without the elbow joint feeling the force of the hit. When assessing an elbow of a person with lateral or medial joint pain, special notice of the shoulder and wrist need to be taken. If the shoulder has a click, clunk, or is painful to palpation or has limited range of motion (especially during external rotation, sideways motion and elevation, as in a tennis swing or lifting or lowering from across and in front of the body), then shoulder rehabilitation is in order. If the wrist is painful or has limited movement, the person in question should seek appropriate assistance in forming a rehabilitation plan, which will at some point include exercises to return them to their normal routine or desired activities.

Thirdly, if the position of the shoulder and wrist are in stress, the posture in static and during movement must be assessed.  Biomechanics are key in understanding the faulty motions that have resulted in pain. 

Treatment may include supervised muscle reconditioning, ice therapy, soft tissue therapeutic bodywork and postural training.  Finding the right person to do all of the above is essential to a speedy recovery.

Important Points to Remember:

:: Assess equipment and possible activities that may have caused the pain

:: Address underlying muscle imbalances or instabilities in other joints
:: Correct weaknesses in posture and biomechanics that may have caused the motion that caused the injuries or inflammation

Pain from tennis elbow usually lasts for several weeks. In some people, the condition can go away sooner, or last even longer. Unfortunately, once you have had tennis elbow, it may return. It is always best to consult a doctor or physical therapist for advice prior to undergoing any treatment.