Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow
As our glorious British Summer continues and everyone basks on the tennis court, our osteopath, Andrew Doody, calls time on an old problem.
Tennis elbow is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow. It’s clinically known as lateral epicondylitis and often occurs after strenuous overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, near the elbow joint.
You may notice pain:
- on the outside of your upper forearm, just below the bend of your elbow
- when lifting or bending your arm
- when gripping small objects, such as a pen
- when twisting your forearm, such as turning a door handle or opening a jar
You may also find it difficult to fully extend your arm.
The name tennis elbow is because the tennis backhand shot is a common way to develop the problem, however any strain or overuse can cause it.
Lesser known golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is a similar issue but on the other side of the elbow.
These conditions are easy to get but can hang around for weeks and months if left untreated. This is largely due to the fact that lots of the muscles in the hand and forearm attach to those two spots on either side of the elbow. This means that once the area is enflamed, most everything you do with the hand can re-aggravate it, from drinking a cup of tea (or Pimms) to opening a door (or raising a trophy).
Once diagnosed, treatment involves firstly reducing the inflammation with rest, cold compresses and anti-inflammatories, followed by massage and careful mobilisation to help relieve pain and stiffness and restore the range of movement. Specific supports can also be quite beneficial at this time.
Preventing tennis elbow
Preventing tennis elbow is tough but here are a few pointers:
- If you have tennis elbow, stop doing the activity that is causing pain, or find an alternative way of doing it that does not place stress on your tendons.
- Avoid using your wrist and elbow more than the rest of your arm. Spread the load to the larger muscles of your shoulder and upper arm.
- If you play a sport that involves repetitive movements, such as tennis or squash, getting some coaching advice to help improve your technique may help you avoid getting tennis elbow.
- Before playing a sport that involves repetitive arm movements, warm up properly and gently stretch your arm muscles to help avoid injury.
- Use lightweight tools or racquets and enlarge their grip size to help you avoid putting excess strain on your tendons.
- Wear a tennis elbow support when you are using your arm, and take it off while you are resting or sleeping to help prevent further damage to your tendons. Ask your osteopath for advice about the best type of brace or splint to use.
Increasing the strength of your forearm muscles can help prevent tennis elbow. Your osteopath can advise you about exercises to build up your forearm muscles.
With the Rugby World Cup in full swing, our osteopath Andrew Doody takes you through some of the most common injuries in this most physical of sports.
The five most common rugby injuries:
A medial collateral ligament tear
This is the ligament on the inside of the knee. It stabilises the knee (along with the lateral collateral and cruciate ligaments). Due to the nature of tackling a player by hitting into the outside of the leg, this can often gap the opposite side, putting the ligament under enough strain to tear or even rupture. Quick changes of direction can also strain this ligament.
Haematoma of the thigh
In similar circumstances as the MCL injuries during tackling, impact on the thigh can often cause severe bruising of an area as the soft tissues are smashed against the thigh bone with blood vessels being damaged and blood then clotting around the area.
The three muscles on the back of the thigh, commonly known as the hamstrings are often injured in many sports, not only rugby. Rapid changes of pace can strain the muscle, especially if it is not fully warmed up (although research is beginning to show it’s not quite as simple as previously thought). Mechanical issues in the leg such as gait on running can also add to the danger of a tear.
In a similar fashion, the calf muscle is often strained, usually where it attaches to the Achilles tendon. Again, overuse, especially on a tired muscle, can cause strains, as can the mechanics of the foot and ankle complex.
The one that has the spotlight on it most recently is, of course, concussion. Any blow to the head can cause varying degrees of concussion. This can be from mild to extremely serious. Very difficult to prevent in rugby, the emphasis has fallen on rapid identification of when a concussion has occurred and immediate action to minimise the danger of ongoing damage.
Rugby is a rough sport and it is always difficult to greatly lower the risk of injury without hugely compromising what is a great game. The RFU is working hard to achieve this though, through changes to the laws of rugby. As well as raising awareness of injuries, both in regard to preventative factors and response after injury occurs.
Osteopathy can stretch and condition the muscles and ease the pain; a routine of stretches to carry out at home can also be recommended. Andrew Doody offers a trusted osteopathy service which can assist with pain relief and also address the underlying causes of injuries, decreasing your chances of future injury.
If you have had a rugby injury or are experiencing any musculoskeletal problems, you can book an appointment online.