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Go Easy on That Elbow

Tennis and golf enthusiasts aren't the only ones struck by elbow pain

SATURDAY, March 22, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Tennis elbow and its cousin, golfer's elbow, are not just for tennis and golf players.

They can affect anyone who engages in repetitive movements, even away from the court or the green.

Repetitive motion tends to weaken the tendons in the elbow area, making them prone to tearing. With tennis elbow, it's the tendon on the outside of the elbow that is damaged. With golfer's elbow, it's the tendon on the inside of the elbow. In both cases, the person feels pain in the elbow area and often has difficult performing such simple tasks as gripping a coffee cup or extending the forearm fully.

The first step to treating tennis or golfer's elbow is to stop the activity that caused it, take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, and apply ice to the elbow. You can also try wrapping a compression band around your forearm to reduce pain.

In some cases, patients will have to move on to cortisone injections and even surgery followed by physical therapy.

The best strategy is prevention:

  • Make sure your equipment is suitable -- that means a lightweight tennis racquet and a proper grip on your racquet or club.
  • The Mayo Clinic recommends having a pro check out your golf swing to make sure there isn't too much wrist movement.
  • Always warm up thoroughly before playing.
  • Try this strengthening/stretching exercise from the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine: Support your forearm on a flat surface; hold a one-to-two pound weight in the hand. Keep the palm face down while slowly extending your wrist. Bring the weight up, then bend it back down. Repeat the exercise 10 times slowly, then switch arms. Next do the same exercise with your palm facing up. You can substitute a loop of rubber tubing for the weight. Attach one end to a table leg or hold it on the floor with your foot to provide resistance.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on the condition.

SOURCES: Mayo Clinic; American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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