If you’ve ever had tennis elbow, you know how debilitating it can be. With lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow, the tendons between the elbow and wrist get swollen and cause pain on the outer side of the elbow. While it may be named after the popular sport, repetitive arm movements from an activity like tennis, golf, or even working can cause an over-use, musculoskeletal injury.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to treat it through professional physiotherapy. It’s best to seek treatment for the pain and adopt the best preventive measures for this condition. Here is how to prevent tennis elbow.
1. Don’t Overtax Muscles
This is a repetitive stress injury, and it is important to rest the soft tissues surrounding the elbow. The location of your elbow joint is where the humerus bone in your upper arm meets the radius and ulna bones in your forearm. With overuse, the tendons and muscles attached to the outside of your elbow start to tear and inflame. This affects your wrist and finger movement.
When playing sports, rest your arm when you notice it getting sore. If you haven’t played in a while, you may want to work your way up to a competitive level and use proper technique and form when playing. You can wear a brace to rest your arm as well.
If it is work-related, talk to your employer about your injury, and they may suggest other tasks as an alternative. A time loss injury isn’t good for you or your employer, so make sure to take breaks and relax your arm as needed.
2. Focus On Smooth Movements
Whether working or playing, you need to be gentle on your arm to avoid tennis elbow developing. This means modifying your range of motion, including:
- Avoiding stretching your arm all the way out
- Avoiding sharp, jerking movements
- Adjusting work station to reduce strain
- Rely more on your shoulder and upper arm muscles
3. Exercise Your Arm
One of the best ways to avoid injury is to ensure your body is strong and flexible. With tennis elbow, this means your arms and includes forearm and wrist exercises.
Wrist Stretch Exercise
Straighten your arm, so your elbow isn’t bent and hold your palm up. With the other hand, stretch your fingers back towards your body until you feel it in your inner forearm and hold for 30 seconds. Do 3-5 reps for three sets during the day.
Imagine you have a soaking wet towel and need to wring it out. Using a small towel, grab both ends with your hands, twist in the opposite directions, and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
This one involves props. Start by touching your thumb with the rest of your fingers simultaneously. Then grab an elastic band and wrap it around all digits, so it is tight and secure. Slowly open and close your fingers as wide as possible, putting tension on the rubber band.
Do this one 25 times, 3-5 times a day. You can add a second rubber band if it becomes too easy.
Use a lightweight dumbbell of around 1 pound or a can of soup for this exercise. Place your arm on a counter, the edge of a table or your thigh and let your wrist hang over the edge. Hold the weight with your palm facing up and raise and lower your hand slowly, bending only at the wrist. Go for 7-10 reps for 3-5 sets.
4. Warm Up Before Strenuous Activities
Your body is a machine, and it needs to get the blood flowing into the muscles to operate properly. Make sure you do some stretches before playing sports or any other strenuous activity. Stretching will improve your range of motion and add flexibility to your muscles while allowing you to bear more stress. Taking the time to warm up will greatly decrease your chance of injury.
Lifting properly is also important to ease the stress on your forearms. Make sure your arms are bent with your palms facing forward, so your larger muscles like the chest, biceps and back are doing most of the work.
5. Listen to Your Body
Getting to know your body and paying attention when you feel like you need a break from the activity is vital to preventing injuries like tennis elbow. Everyone has a different pain threshold, so be alert to the signals your body gives you because it will tell you when it has been pushed too far and needs rest.
They say prevention is the best medicine, which is certainly the case with tennis elbow. Use these methods to strengthen your muscles and avoid injury so you can work to your full potential and enjoy all the leisure activities you want.