Anyone For Tennis?

If you suffer from tennis elbow, it is vital to seek early diagnosis and treatment, says expert Jane Connolly of Whalley Physio

Every summer Wimbledon inspires many of us to get out onto the court. However, the constant stopping, starting and changing of direction results in massive forces and energy being transferred from the feet through muscles, fascia and joints to the racket as part of the kinetic chain.

Any malfunction along this chain causes compensation and often pain.

Understanding the mechanics and cause of injury and knowing how to translate this into treatment is paramount in rehabilitation and the key to improvement. At Whalley Physiotherapy we work closely with Liz Thomas, tennis coach, who analyses and assesses stroke and technique before advising on technical improvements.

Tennis elbow is a common disorder where the outer part of the elbow becomes painful and tender to touch along with possible weakness in the grip strength. Onset of symptoms is generally gradual and is felt particularly hitting backhands.

All treatment should start with avoiding aggravating activities. Physiotherapy for example ice, ultrasound, manual therapy and balanced concentric and eccentric training of the forearm muscles, helps reduce pain and improve the flexibility and strength with good effects. Symptoms lasting beyond three months are considered chronic and no longer inflammatory but more degenerative in nature, consequently a corticosteroid injection may have a positive effect in the short term, but long-term results are less positive than those of physiotherapy.

A big part of treatment is to prevent reoccurrence. In tennis, warm-up and stretching exercises, suitable equipment and the correct technique (hitting the ball in front of the body with a straight, firm wrist reduces the force on the elbow during ball impact) is essential. A knowledge of how the body works allows recognition and correction of potential problems, for example full internal rotation of the shoulder transfers power from the body to the racket. Limitation results in the body compensating by over pronating the forearm, a primary cause of tennis elbow.

Of course, tennis elbow isn’t only caused by tennis. Any activities involving gripping and repetitive actions can cause trauma in the extensor muscles. Looking at the big picture is relevant in effective treatment. Stiffness in the neck and thoracic spine can cause referred pain into the arm around the elbow. Similarly stiffness in the shoulder, poor posture and weak core strength can result in compensatory overuse and pain around the elbow, even in unexpected activities such as computer work or shaking hands.

Whatever the cause of your tennis elbow, early diagnosis and advice will speed your return to the job in hand.



Tedd Walmsley

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