Lateral epicondylitis is the official name given to one of the most common injuries afflicting recreational, club, and league tennis players at some point in their playing history.
“Tennis elbow,” as it’s more widely recognized, is a nasty, nagging injury that can take months to heal. Players suffering from it describe the pain like “a sharp knife stabbing their elbow” when hitting a backhand, and “a burning, stabbing pain” on top of the forearm when hitting a forehand, especially when either shot is hit late or slightly off center.
What causes tennis elbow? Well, there are a myriad of things that can contribute to its development. The most common is hitting the ball late while holding the racquet too tight. Add these to the sheer repetitive nature of our sport and – poof – it’s tennis elbow time.
Once you have it, the most common way to treat tennis elbow is rest, ice, a compression wrap (many types available in any pharmacy), and pain medication. Depending on how serious it is, one might seek further treatment (e.g. cortisone shots, acupuncture, physiotherapy).
These “fixes” are common, but the overall best way to treat tennis elbow is to be pro-active in understanding the cause, and avoid suffering the symptoms that take such a long time for healing.
There are three reasons why you’ll likely never see any touring pros suffering from tennis elbow:
- Their grip and overall body mechanics are relaxed throughout their strokes.
- Their balance and body position are focused on hitting the ball out front, rather than late.
- Their overall fitness is of a very high caliber, allowing them more time to get to the ball.
I realize we mere mortals aren’t quite at that level, although working on technique, footwork and fitness can pay dividends no matter what level you play. But there is a rather easy thing we can do in our daily routine of life that not only will benefit our tennis but can help our general well being too.
It’s called good posture: back straight, shoulders back and aligned directly over your hips, chin up, head slightly back. To practice, balance a book on your head. (Remember that?)
Studies have shown that correct posture promotes and maintains joint symmetry, allowing your body to perform at its best without injury.
No slouching! This is fast becoming the accepted modern posture due to the many sedentary daily activities of today’s world (TV, computer, driving, reading, texting, etc.).
By correcting your posture, your tennis elbow and other overuse injuries (wrists, hips, knees, ankles) start to go away rapidly.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. firstname.lastname@example.org