Tennis elbow doesn’t just happen to tennis players. In fact, the name is somewhat misleading.
The technical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. But if you don’t work in the sports injury or medical field, this might not mean much either.
Essentially, it is the inflammation of the tendon that attaches at the elbow from the forearm muscles. It can happen from any repetitive stress on the tendon. And it frequently occurs due to overuse or the all-too-common too much, too soon scenario.
You might feel tenderness on your outer elbow. You may feel pain when you move the elbow. And the onset might be gradual. But then the problem with brushing it off is that it could potentially blow up into an even bigger issue - such as a muscle tear.
BUT WAIT - HOW DOES WEIGHTLIFTING CAUSE TENNIS ELBOW?
When lifting heavy weights, you use your forearm muscles to grip the dumbbells or bar. When this is done repeatedly, or it’s too much weight for the forearm muscles to handle, micro-trauma occurs - specifically to the tendon that attaches at the elbow. In other words, you’re overworking your forearm extensors. The result? You experience pain and inflammation at the elbow.
Other factors that may be at play include improper form or hand placement. Using incorrect alignment can place more stress than necessary on the wrist extensor muscles.
SO, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO TO GET RID OF YOUR PAIN?
It’s important to get your elbow properly looked at. Book an appointment with your doctor or physical therapist. There may be more going on than just tennis elbow. And it’s better to be safe than sorry. They can also provide you guidance and treatment for your individual case.
The next best thing you can do is rest. The elbow needs time to heal. Ice can also be applied for 10-15 minutes at a time. Make sure to put a wet cloth between you and the ice pack to avoid skin damage. Further, anti-inflammatory meds can help to a certain degree. It can ease your pain caused by the inflammation. However, you should avoid taking these medications for long durations. Chronic consumption of these drugs can lead to dangerous gastrointestinal issues.
Stretching and strengthening exercises for the forearms and wrist extensors can also help you heal and come back stronger - preventing the injury from recurring. Below we explain these exercises in greater detail.
Wrist Extensor Stretch
- Hold your arm out straight in front of you.
- Bend your hand down, so that your palm is facing you.
- Use your opposite hand to pull your hand and palm toward you. Only pull as far as it is comfortable. If you feel any pain, ease off the stretch.
- Hold here for about 20-30 seconds. You should feel a stretch through the top of your forearm, just below your elbow.
- Perform this stretch 2-3 times per day.
Wrist Extensor Strengthening
- Sit in a chair and bend your elbow - resting your forearm on a table beside you.
- Hand your hand and wrist off of the edge of the table.
- Hold a small weight or a light resistance band in your hand.
- Begin with slight tension in the band or holding the weight.
- Slowly extend your wrist upward. Your forearm shouldn’t move - just your hand.
- Slowly lower your wrist back down.
- Perform 10-12 repetitions and do 2-3 sets per day.
Looking for another way to improve your forearm strength? Practice grip strengthening exercises. Most gyms have grip strengthening tools you can use to do so. Further, performing regular wrist stretches can improve your flexibility - decreasing your chances of injury.
DON’T LET A TENNIS ELBOW INJURY HOLD YOU BACK!
Take the appropriate time to heal. Avoid heavy weights until your pain has subsided. Massage or other manual therapy techniques may also help (which is why it’s important to visit a pro to find out if such methods would be useful for you!).
Start regularly taking care of your wrists. Stretch and strengthen them! Don’t fight through elbow pain or any other type of pain. Take the proper care when required, then get back to hitting your goals and living your best life.