Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow in Happy Valley
A common misunderstanding of Tennis & Golfer’s elbow conditions (lateral & medial epicondylitis, respectively) is that you can you acquire either without playing any sport! Tennis elbow is associated with the outside portion around your elbow and Golfer’s elbow is associated with the inner portion of your elbow. Both conditions are essentially the same problem just on opposite sides of your elbow. These are a form of tendinopathies which result from the accumulation of repeated straining. The straining does not need to be from anything specific but common influences include:
- Repetitive tasks, such as typing, writing, or handling of objects.
- Repetitive gripping, lifting, carrying of objects.
- Dynamic impulse loading during gripping, such as racquet or club sports (IE Tennis and Golf but others too)
*For simplicity, we will mainly refer to Tennis Elbow BUT, understand that typically the opposite or reverse mechanisms will be relatable to Golfer’s Elbow.
Let’s dive deeper into how Tennis Elbow develops from playing tennis specifically. Your extensor forearm muscles are generally weaker than the flexor side (think Popeye), and are used in tennis during a backhand volley. This is also why players will commonly utilize a 2-handed back hand approach, to compensate for the relative weakness of the extensor muscles. So, as you’re gripping your racquet and initiate a backhand shot, as the ball contacts the racquet, your extensors must suddenly produce a large increase in force output, or strength, to prevent the ball from knocking your racquet backward and for you to redirect the ball back toward your opponent. During that impact moment of the ball hitting the racquet the impulse will travel through your wrist all the way into your elbow via the extensor muscles. Over time, without adequate rest for recovery, the muscles and tendons begin to accumulate micro damage and become inflamed leading to tendonitis. For Golfer’s elbow, the same mechanism is true for when the club impacts the ground & ball during your swing.
Common Complaints (Symptoms) of Tennis & Golfer’s Elbow
Symptoms will be similar for both but obviously focused to a specific side of your elbow pending which condition you are currently experiencing:
- Pain or symptoms may radiate anywhere between your elbow and wrist.
- Strain or symptoms related to everyday tasks such as – buttoning clothing, writing, typing, pouring or drinking from glassware, opening jars, and driving.
- Unusual stiffness or symptoms in the elbow.
- Reduced grip strength. Common to have pain or symptoms while gripping.
Diagnosing Tennis & Golfer’s Elbow
The main differential for diagnosis is the ability to determine if the symptoms experienced are from a true tendinopathy at the elbow or are possibly referred from a neck condition. Some examples of differentiating questions and tests your provider will likely ask include:
- What makes your symptoms better or worse?
- Does head or neck positioning alter your symptoms?
- If your forearm is experiencing symptoms and you try to massage it, does that change your symptoms?
- Does development of muscle tension in the forearm or various forms of gripping objects increase symptoms?
Based on the cumulative data from a thorough physical and subjective examination, your provider will review their findings and work with you to develop a comprehensive plan of care.
Treatment for Tennis & Golfer’s Elbow
Some quick tips that you can get started with immediately include:
- Temporarily reduce physical exertion in affected arm by limiting activities to reduce strain.
- Wrap a cold pack in a dry cloth towel and apply to affected arm for 15-20 minutes.
- Gentle massage to tender forearm musculature.
- May try a compression elbow strap brace.
These injuries can snowball into nagging annoying situations if not managed properly with symptoms that spill over into your daily life activities. Your physical therapist will work with you in developing a plan of care tailored to your goals. An example plan of care outline would include the following:
- Identifying symptom relief strategies
- Temporary compensation strategies to reduce inflammation
- Temporary activity modifications to avoid ongoing strain to muscles & tendons
- Prescriptive Resistance Training
- Increase strength of forearm with an eccentric emphasis
- Targeted Stretching Activities
- Increase mobility of affected structures to reduce strain
- Recommendation of orthotics
- Compression strap to reduce strain to affected muscles and tendons
- Training and identification of contributory factors including weightlifting, workplace, and sport technique for long term prevention
If Tennis elbow or Golfer’s elbow have been interfering with your life, call us today to get started on a plan of care that works for you. Ascent Physical Therapy is conveniently located off Sunnyside Road in Happy Valley. We also love treating our neighboring communities of Damascus, Gresham, Clackamas, and Sandy at our top rated physical therapy clinic!