Overuse of your arm and forearm muscles can cause abrupt or subtle tearing of the muscles and tendons around the outside of the elbow, resulting in pain. That's tennis elbow.
Just because it's called that doesn't mean it's limited to people who play tennis. It can affect other athletes and people who do leisure or work activities that require repetitive arm, elbow and wrist movement, says Dr. Stephen Silver, an orthopedic surgeon at the Insall Scott Kelly Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
He offers the following tips to prevent tennis elbow:
- Hit some soft shots with a partner before you start a tennis match.
- When hitting backhand, begin the motion at the shoulder and avoid placing your thumb behind the racket's grip. This reduces the amount of vibration absorbed by your arm.
- Dust your racquet handle with sawdust or chalk to reduce slippage.
Silver says the most common symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Pain slowly increasing around the outside of the elbow. Sudden development of pain can occur, but is less common.
- Your pain is worse when you shake hands or squeeze objects.
- The pain is made worse when you stabilize or move your wrist by force. For example, when lifting, using tools or handling simple utensils such as a knife or fork.
Silver says 95 percent of people with tennis elbow improve and recover with non-surgical treatment. However, such treatment is most effective if it starts as soon as symptoms appear. The longer you've had tennis elbow, the longer your rehabilitation and the greater chance you'll need surgery.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has all the facts about this condition.