Guest Author - Sandra Eggers
Tennis elbow is every player's nightmare. It's painful to play through, difficult to recover from, and often the injury does not heal completely. Once you've got it, you need to do something about it right away or the injury may become serious enough to involve surgery, and that's not an option you want to consider.
The following precautions and tips will help you identify tennis elbow, work through the recovery and learn how to play again after living through the injury. Of course, should you experience any pain when playing tennis, it's important that you consult with your physician right away.
If you're having pain just above or below your elbow, and possibly extending to your shoulder or wrist, you need to determine if the problem is tennis elbow. The best thing you can do is educate yourself about what tennis elbow is and how it can be prevented. There are many great sources of information on the web but confirmatin should always come from a doctor.
There's no quick and easy way to recover from tennis elbow except to rest. Take a break from tennis, and anything else that uses the muscles and tendons around the elbow. If you have traditional tennis elbow ("on the top" as opposed to golfers elbow which is "on the bottom"), you may feel pain only when hitting a backhand. This does not give you a green light to hit forehands because it doesn't hurt. It's important to realize that any use of your arm will only prolong your injury. One thing is for sure - if you don't rest at the first signs of tennis elbow, your recovery may include surgery, and that's not a goal you want to achieve.
If you are suffering from tennis elbow, and have rested enough to where there is no pain, you can begin some basic strengthening exercises, probably as part of a physical therapy program. It's important to start slow, be consistent and take it easy. The very first thing you'll want to do after a long layoff is go out and hit some balls, but that's the worst thing for your recovery. You need to strengthen your entire arm and work up to swinging a racquet before you can even think of going out on the court again. Stretching and strengthening will also be a big part of your future routine, and is something you will have to work at every day if you want to keep playing tennis.
Rest and Ice
Rest and ice, along with Ibuprofen, will become your savior. Whether you have a slight case of tennis elbow, or a full-blown injury, the area around your elbow will be prone to swelling. After any kind of exercise, it's very important that you ice the effected area to help reduce swelling. This may well become a ritual, and something you have to do from now on after every time you play. Rest is also key if you feel any twinge of pain, or find yourself playing several days in a row, if it's too much for your arm, you need to take a few days off. Ibuprofen will also help reduce swelling, and can be taken before or after a match.
If you are playing with some pain, there are several arm bands that can help you get through a match, but they do nothing to prevent the injury from getting worse. You can actually play for months with these arm bands without much pain, but you may be doing long-term damage. The arm bands are designed to give you some comfort if you are suffering from tennis elbow, and they help warm the area on cold days, but do not mistake them as preventative aids.
There are several "tennis" things you can do with your tennis elbow. The leading cause of tennis elbow is incorrect stroke mechanics. If you're not hitting the ball correctly, it can cause additional stress on your elbow and lead to injury. You should check with a certified instructor to make sure your strokes are correct. In addition, there are many recommended tennis racquets that are easy on your arm, and which you should consider trying if you are recovering from this injury. Stiff frames and tightly strung racquets with little or no dampening transfer shock and vibration through your arm, possibly resulting in a case of tennis elbow. Other factors which may influence tennis elbow include using too small of a grip, or a very lightweight racquet.