Tennis elbow can be a severe problem for many tennis players of all levels and age groups. Tennis elbow can be very painful and has driven a number of people away from the sport of tennis. To prevent this from happening to you, we’ll give you the rundown on what tennis elbow is, how to prevent it, and ways to treat it.
What is tennis elbow?
Lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow occurs when a specific tendon of the humerus bone becomes irritated, inflamed, or damaged. This causes pain on the outer (or inner) part of the elbow. While tennis players suffer the condition most frequently, anyone who does a lot of lifting at the elbow is susceptible. Can also be called golfer’s elbow, little league elbow, computer elbow and even writer’s cramp. Symptoms include tenderness on the outer (or inner) part of the elbow, lateral elbow pain extending into the forearm, pain during movement of the elbow, especially lifting movements. Typically, the pain caused by tennis elbow subsides overnight, but returns when stress is again applied to the elbow.
How can I prevent tennis elbow?
The best way to prevent tennis elbow is by having good technique on your strokes, especially your backhand. Poor technique often causes a player to hit the ball late or off-balance, causing their arm to have to do most of the work, rather than their torso. This can quickly cause the tendons near your elbow to become overworked. Unfortunately, if it were easy to strike the ball perfectly every time, we would all play like Roger Federer.
One thing you can do to help prevent tennis elbow is strengthen the muscles around your elbow. This will help condition the tendon and make it accustomed to enduring significant strain. Another option is changing the equipment you play with. The less vibration that reaches your elbow, the less likely it is for the tendon to flare up.
Softer strings, especially natural gut tennis strings, significantly reduce the amount of vibration that travels down the handle. Also, heavier head light (the weight is in the handle) more flexible tennis racquets with larger sweet spots will help prevent vibration from reaching the elbow. Build up the grip size. This means you aren’t squeezing the grip as much and takes the strain off the tendons.
A heavier, head light (the weight is in the handle) racquet absorbs more of the impact and vibrations (the mass of the racquet versus the velocity of the ball) when hitting the ball. This is much better for you as it’s not going into your arm.
Most people start out with a light tennis racquet then work their way up as their skills advance.
If you find yourself stuck with tennis elbow, I suggest looking at heavier head light racquets in the 11.5 oz range.
How can I treat tennis elbow?
When you start feeling the effects of tennis elbow, the first thing you might want to consider doing is changing to a softer tennis string, preferably natural gut, or something like RAB Sensor Fibre. Although gut is quite expensive for string, it can be a quick fix for many players.
Wearing a high-quality brace supported by sports medicine professionals can also help significantly to offer additional support while you build strength and perfect your form. If neither of those solutions help, your next step might be looking into asking a coach about ways you could change your stroke to help avoid irritation to the elbow.
You should take a look at your tennis racquet as well. Switching to a lighter racquet with a larger head size could solve the problem. Tennis elbow is treatable and if you have the right tennis equipment and the right instructor, you can become an even better player – without the discomfort.
One other thing to consider is don’t assume technique or the racquet is the problem. Have your shoulder checked out to see if it is rotating properly. If it isn’t then it means your elbow has to take up the slack in the kinetic chain.