“Matt Bonner says he got tennis elbow from his iPhone 6” – 2015 NBA sports headline

Tennis elbow, a common condition also known as lateral epicondylitis, plagues not only tennis players but also individuals who engage in repetitive hand and wrist movements. It manifests as pain and tenderness on the outer elbow, often making simple tasks like gripping objects or lifting a cup of coffee uncomfortable.

However, the good news is that tennis elbow is often preventable and treatable.


an image zoomed in and focused on a tennis racket and ball in a person's hand


Understanding Tennis Elbow: Causes and Symptoms

Tennis elbow arises from inflammation of the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the bony bump on the outer side of your elbow. This inflammation typically results from repetitive motions that overuse these tendons. Here’s a breakdown of the four most common causes:

  1. Overuse: Repetitive gripping, wrist extension, or forceful movements, common in activities like tennis, painting, carpentry, or using screwdrivers, can overload the tendons and lead to inflammation.
  2. Improper technique: Incorrect form during activities like weightlifting or racquet sports can place undue stress on the elbow tendons.
  3. Weak forearm muscles: Weak muscles can contribute to excessive strain on the tendons during activities.
  4. Age: As we age, the tendons naturally lose some of their elasticity, making them more susceptible to overuse injuries.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow:

  • Pain and tenderness on the outer elbow, especially when gripping or lifting objects.
  • Weakness in the wrist and forearm.
  • Pain that worsens with activities that involve gripping or wrist extension.
  • A burning or aching sensation in the elbow.


Strategies for Preventing Tennis Elbow

Prevention is always preferable to treatment. Here are some proactive steps you can take to minimize your risk of developing tennis elbow:

  • Warm up and cool down: Before engaging in activities that involve repetitive hand and wrist movements, perform dynamic stretches and light exercises to warm up your muscles and prepare them for activity. Dedicate time to static stretches after your activity to cool down and improve flexibility.
  • Maintain proper form: If you participate in activities that require gripping or wrist extension, ensure you use proper technique. Consider seeking guidance from a coach or trainer to ensure proper form during activities like weightlifting or using racquet sports equipment.
  • Strengthen your forearms: Regularly incorporate forearm strengthening exercises into your routine. This can help support the tendons and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Take breaks: Avoid prolonged periods of repetitive activity. Take regular breaks to rest your forearms and avoid excessive strain on the tendons.
  • Use proper equipment: When engaging in activities like carpentry or using tools, ensure you utilize ergonomic tools that help maintain proper wrist and hand position to decrease stress on the elbow.

Additional preventative measures:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts additional strain on your joints, including your elbows. Maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce your risk of developing tennis elbow.
  • Stay hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for optimal muscle function and recovery. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to any early warning signs of discomfort in your elbow. If you experience pain during an activity, modify your intensity or take a break to avoid further strain.


Treating Tennis Elbow: Techniques for Recovery

If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly to prevent chronic pain and complications. Here are some treatment strategies:

  • Rest: Allow your elbow time to heal by reducing or taking a break from activities that exacerbate your pain.
  • Ice therapy: Apply ice packs to your elbow for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can assess your specific condition and develop a personalized rehabilitation program to strengthen your forearm muscles, improve flexibility, and address any underlying imbalances that may be contributing to your pain. They may also utilize techniques like ultrasound or electrical stimulation to promote healing.
  • Bracing: Wearing a counterforce brace can help support the tendons and reduce stress on the injured area.

When to Seek Professional Help

If your symptoms persist despite conservative treatment measures, or if you experience significant pain, swelling, or weakness in your elbow, consult a healthcare professional or sports medicine specialist. They can perform a thorough evaluation and recommend appropriate treatment options, which may include cortisone injections or in rare cases, surgery.


Living Pain-Free: Long-Term Management for Tennis Elbow

  • Maintain your strengthening routine: Continue incorporating forearm strengthening exercises into your routine to maintain strong muscles that support your elbow joint.
  • Stretch regularly: Regularly stretching your wrist flexors, extensors, and forearm muscles can improve flexibility and reduce the risk of tightness contributing to tennis elbow.
  • Maintain proper posture: Maintaining good posture throughout the day helps distribute stress evenly throughout your body and reduces strain on your elbows.
  • Ergonomics in the workplace: If you work at a desk job, ensure your workspace is ergonomically designed to promote proper wrist and elbow position. This may involve using a wrist rest, adjusting your chair height, or utilizing specialized keyboards or mice.
  • Listen to your body: Pay close attention to any early warning signs of discomfort in your elbow. Don’t push through pain – modify your activity level or take a break to prevent further aggravation.
  • Consider alternative tools: Explore alternative tools or techniques for tasks that may aggravate your elbow. For example, consider using a power screwdriver instead of a manual one, or utilizing voice-activated technology to reduce the need for repetitive hand movements.

By following these preventative and treatment strategies, you can effectively manage tennis elbow and reclaim your grip on pain-free activity. Remember, consistency is key. By integrating these practices into your daily routine and modifying your activities as needed, you can significantly reduce your risk of future flare-ups and continue enjoying the activities you love.


a person holding their elbow and a tennis racket


Finding Joint Pain Relief with Pain and Performance Solutions

For joint pain such as tennis elbow, the first step to finding pain relief is to contact Pain and Performance Solutions in Santa Rosa. During your first appointment with us, we’ll ask you a series of questions to learn more about your present discomfort as well as any history of pain.

Afterward, we’ll conduct a full examination to determine which form of treatment is needed to help you
on your road to recovery. And one of the most effective treatments for many soft tissue and joint pain
issues such as lateral epicondylitis is Active Release Techniques® or ART®.

You can reach us at (707) 636-4404 or by filling out our online contact form.