My Sharp Elbow Pain – Preventing & Treating Tennis & Golfer’s Elbow

Common Symptoms

  • Are you getting either a dull or sharp pain on the inside or outside of your elbow when playing tennis or golf?
  • Are you getting pain when turning a doorknob or using a computer mouse?
  • Are you occasionally feeling weakness around your elbow and wrist, especially after engaging in a lot of activity with your arm?
  • Are you noticing that regions of your elbow are swollen, hot to touch, or inflamed (red in colour)?
  • Are you over 35 and have not previously experienced symptoms in your wrist or elbow area?

If you have some or all of these symptoms, it’s likely you have Tennis/Golfer’s Elbow, which is known medically as Elbow Tendinitis.

General Information – why does this injury occur?

Tennis (or Golfer’s) elbow accounts for approximately 7% of all sports injuries, so if you’re suffering with it, it’s safe to say that you’re not alone! This injury is primarily a tendon injury and is caused by excessive, repetitive forces going through your forearm, like when you strike a ball in tennis or golf. There are a significant number of muscles in your forearm, and many of their tendons join together & anchor themselves on the outside or inside of your elbow. It’s this tendon junction (a.k.a. Common Extensor/Flexor Origin – these muscles either extend or flex your wrist) that gets irritated and inflamed by the repetitive high forces.

Your tendons get less durable as you get older, which is why people over 35 are more prone to this type of injury. During your backswing before striking either a tennis or golf ball, the muscles that extend your wrist are in a stretched position, which is a vulnerable position for this muscle/tendon. Therefore when you strike the ball, your forearm muscles are in a vulnerable position and are likely to suffer a micro (tiny) injury. When you play the sport for an extended period (18 holes of golf or 2-3 sets of tennis) these micro injuries get bigger, more inflamed and subsequently more painful.

Typical Treatment – how will you cure my Elbow Tendinitis Injury?

Assessment: The first important step is to confirm that you do indeed have Elbow Tendinitis. We need to rule out other possible injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or other causes of pain like a nerve problem. Once we’ve confirmed the diagnosis, we can commence treatment and management.

Rest: A break from the sport or activity which likely caused your injury is essential. We need to prevent the tendon from undergoing those repetitive micro-injuries which prolong the inflammation process and prevent healing.
Ice: Many people find icing this type of injury helpful. In general, if the ice feels soothing and comfortable on your injury, then it is providing a benefit. Apply ice for 10 minutes at a time with a 45-50 minute gap between applications.

Manual Therapy: This is the most important part of managing this injury. I’ll need to carry out a type of therapy called Friction Massage on the affected tendons. This type of therapy is quite uncomfortable and will leave your forearm feeling limp for 2-3 days, but it is extremely quick and effective at curing this type of tendon injury.

Strengthening: Once your pain, swelling and inflammation have gone down, we’ll start strengthening exercises on your wrist muscles. In order for those injured tendons to heal strong, we need to be putting them through their paces. These exercises also help to prevent this injury from (re)occuring. See the pictures below for a demonstration.

Wrist Extension Strengthening

Wrist Flexion Strengthening

Stretching: Last but certainly not least, stretching before sports is crucially important to keep your muscles loose and flexible. There’s just one simple stretch required in this instance and that’s wrist extension stretching. See the picture below for a demonstration.

Wrist Extension Stretch.jpg

Make an Appointment

Remember, if you’ve got a wrist/forearm problem, or any other injury, why not get it assessed by a professional, before it gets worse. Call me on 0861546175 or send me an email on info@flynnmedicalexercise.com. You can see me in my Blackglen Clinic, Sandyford or we can organise a Home Appointment. I have weekend and evening appointments available as well, just give me a call for more information.

Thanks for reading!

Seán Flynn, Senior Physiotherapist

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