Tennis, golf and elbow pain

| Posted On Jun 14, 2011 | By:

tennis, elbow, racquet, game

Now that the warmer weather season is in full swing, so are the golfers and the tennis enthusiasts (pardon the pun.)  Most will enjoy the sunshine and the game without a problem (except, perhaps, for their scores), but others may develop a consistent pain in their elbow known as elbow tendonitis or epicondylitis.  While it can be very uncomfortable, it is temporary and can be managed or prevented altogether.

What is Elbow Tendonitis?
Elbow tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons that attach the forearm muscle to the bony surface of the elbow. These tendons move the wrist up and down. This condition can occur in anyone who uses frequent forearm motion such as those racquet players and golfers, but also carpenters and construction workers.

The inflammation can take many forms and may include a sense of heat, pain, redness and swelling.  The pain occurs at or around the elbow with flexion or extension of the wrist or rotation of the forearm.

What causes Elbow Tendonitis?
Often, the cause is over-use or repetitive use of the muscles in functional or occupational activities such as tennis, golf and carpentry.  Poor body mechanics or positioning can also be a cause, especially improper techniques or use of inappropriate equipment in sports activities.  For example, an incorrect tennis backhand or an incorrect grip size can result in lateral humeral epicondylitis, known as “tennis elbow,” which affects the outside or medial side of your elbow and involves the extensor tendon.
Golfers can experience a slightly different form of tendonitis called “golfer’s elbow” or medial epicondylitis, which affects the inside or medial side of the elbow and involves the flexor tendon.

How long does tendonitis last, and what can I do?
Usually, the inflammation cycle lasts about 4-6 weeks.  Proper resting, protection and specific management may be required to prevent a prolonged course of healing.  Specifically, you should do the following:

Wrist Extensor and Wrist Flexion Stretching


When should I call my doctor?
If your symptoms do not begin to subside or become worse within 5-7 days, consult your primary care provider.

The cliché about an ounce of prevention definitely holds true for elbow tendonitis.  Below are some tips that may help you avoid a painful injury and, in the case of a favorite sport, maximize your time in the game:

For more information about Harvard Vanguard’s physical therapy department, please click here.

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About Wen-chih Shih

Wen-chih Shih PT, MS joined Harvard Vanguard’s Burlington practice in 2005. 5 years ago, she took on added responsibility as the north region physical therapy supervisor, managing the Burlington, Chelmsford and Peabody sites. Just recently, she became manager of physical therapy at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and is in the process of relocating her practice to Chelmsford. Wen-chih has been instrumental in leading the effort in the north region to provide preventive medicine tips for patients, especially for sports injury topics. Her interests include sports/orthopedic injury, preventive medicine, and enjoying family life with her husband and two children.

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