What is tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)?
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a type of tendinitis, in other words it’s an inflammation or a swelling of the tendons. Tendons are bands of tough tissue that connect the muscles to the bones. This injury is very common in racquet sports (tennis, racquetball, badminton, squash, etc.), but it’s even more common for “non-tennis” players like: musicians (e.g. pianist), painters, hairdressers, makeup artists, receptionists, dental hygienists, weight lifters and more. In fact, epicondylitis is the most common reason why people see their doctors for elbow pain!
Typical symptoms of tennis elbow
Ø Burning sensation
Ø Pain during movement
Ø Rest pain
Ø Loss of strength
Ø Severe pain at night
Causes of tennis elbow (prevention)
Tennis elbow is a lesion caused by an overload of the extensor muscles of the forearm: ·
Straighten your fingers;·
Bend the wrist up;·
Rotate the forearm to the hand is presented in supine position (palms up).
This type of injury usually develops over time with repetitive motions. But from a biomechanic perspective, this injury can also occur by an excessive force or a prolonged static effort. When one of these 3 requirements occurs, it then strains the muscles and put high stress on the tendons. That constant tugging can eventually cause microscopic tears in the tissue and can last between 6 months and 2 years, if the case isn’t taken seriously.
1) Excessive force (exceeds the tolerance of tissues)
Playing against a player way stronger than you. Example: without any warm-up, an amateur tennis player decides to return the first serve of Milos Raonic (155.3 mph), best Canadian tennis player.
Worst scenario will be hitting the ball on the end of your racquet, causing more stress on the tendon (Federer picture).
2) Repetitive motions (lack of recovery – decreased tissue tolerance)
-Playing every day without any rest
-String with high tension
-High vibrations (tennis dampener?)
-Grip size too big or too small for your hands
-Sweat (slippery hands) causing greater grip strength
-Heavy tennis racquet (especially weight at the end of the racquet)
Despite his name, tennis elbow doesn’t only affect tennis players. As mentioned earlier, this tendinopathy is also common toward people with jobs or hobbies that require arm movements or gripping. So, if ever you suffer from this injury, tennis player or not, be sure to avoid having one of the causes mentioned above!
For more information about this topic or if you want me to write an article about exercices or treatments to help you recover faster from this injury, let me know!
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by Bird Smith Chittaphone – B.Sc. Kinesiology
Andrea Emilio Salvi, M. T. (2011, Vol 89 (no. 04)). Epicondylites: Étiologie, Pathogénie et Traitement. La tunisie Médicale, pp. 320-325.Dumontier, C. (2004). L’arthroscopie du coude: Technique et diagnostic arthroscopique, Cours de base d’arthroscopie du membre inférieur. Paris, Institut de la main; Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Genève.
Mansat, M. (Décembre 2012, no. 46). Le coude du sportif. L’observatoire du mouvement, p.1-14.
Marchand, D. (2015).KIN2760 – Blessures musculosquelettiques – Notes de cours sur le coude. [Présentation PDF]. Université du Québec à Montréal.