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Tennis Elbow? Don't Blame Your Racket

May 23, 2015

Do you suffer from tennis elbow? If so, it’s likely that you’ve never picked up a racket.

Tennis elbow occurs when you overwork the tendons in your elbow. It’s closely associated with tennis because it happens after repeated motions in your wrist and arms, which is common in the sport.

Though nearly 50 percent of all tennis players will experience this condition during their playing career, they only accounts for 5 percent of these cases. Most people with so-called “tennis elbow” are in jobs that require them to use their wrists and arms constantly, such as a plumbers, carpenters, bowlers, golfers and gardeners.

Whether you are a professional athlete or worker in a skilled trade, tennis elbow can be a painful condition. However, there are ways to cope.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Between one to three percent of people in the U.S. will experience tennis elbow at some point. The condition involves tears in the muscles or tendons and can happen in one or both arms, making it difficult to perform everyday activities and maintain a high level of competitiveness in a sport.

If you have tennis elbow, you may notice a gradual increase in pain around your elbow that gets worse over time or with overuse. The pain may worsen when you try to do simple tasks like shake someone’s hand, hold a drink or turn a doorknob. You also may experience pain when you don’t bend your wrist or when you try to move it forcefully. Unfortunately, lifting and using even small objects like kitchen utensils or a wrench can worsen tennis elbow.

How to Treat Tennis Elbow

Over the counter medications can minimize the pain associated with tennis elbow. It also helps to rest your arms and wrists as much as possible—though I realize this can be a challenge for athletes and for people who need to use their hands for work. Icing the affected area also helps. However, surgery might be the best approach if all these things don’t work. Nearly 90 percent of people who have surgery for tennis elbow will improve and return to their normal level of arm and wrist function. Talk to your doctor about whether this option is right for you.

However, most people who have tennis elbow will get better without surgery. Rest your arms, wear a brace or take pain medications to minimize symptoms and get back to prime playing form as soon as possible.