Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tennis Elbow Causes and Prevention

Along with the warm weather of spring comes an increase of springtime activities like tennis, golf, and baseball.  While getting outside and playing a challenging tennis match can be fun, you can over-do-it and end-up with elbow pain also known as tennis elbow.  Tennis elbow is a common sports condition that affects more than just tennis pros and weekend tennis warriors.  This condition occurs as a result of repetitive twisting and torquing of the forearm and elbow from activities such as tennis, golf, throwing, racket ball, and bowling.

Tennis elbow is caused by an overuse of the extensor and supinator muscles of the forearm and wrist; in other words, the muscles that turn your palm upward and that straighten your elbow.  While many activities can cause tennis elbow, the most likely culprit is the backhand motion of the tennis swing.

Certain risk factors make getting tennis elbow more likely.  Studies find the incidence of tennis elbow increases in people over 40 who play more than two hours of per week.  A racket grip that's too small or too large can cause poor swing mechanics that also leads to tennis elbow. Playing with a wet, heavy ball, or a racket that is strung too tight can cause more stress on your elbow also leading to tennis elbow.  Lastly, people who are improperly conditioned are at a higher risk for injury because their muscles are not strong and limber enough to withstand the stress of the tennis swing.

Treatment of tennis elbow is typically nonsurgical.  About 95 percent of the people who develop this injury achieve excellent functional recovery in about three to six weeks with rest, and over the counter anti-inflammatories . It's important to refrain from playing tennis during this recovery period.

A proper strength and conditioning program is the best preventative measure for developing tennis elbow.  Exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles that stabilize the upper body and reduce strain on the elbow should be emphasized.  The following three exercises are excellent choices to accomplish this goal.  I suggest you perform these exercises two times each week (never on consecutive days) for best results.

Exercise 1.  Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is a great exercise for strengthening and developing the upper back muscles that are critical for good posture. People whose shoulders are slumped forward most likely have underdeveloped upper back muscles.

First, sit down and adjust the thigh pad to a position that firmly fits over your thighs. Then select a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete. If this is your first time doing this exercise, it may take experimenting at several weights before you find the right resistance. Next, grip the bar a little wider than shoulder width, sit down on the seat and place your knees firmly under the pad. Start with your arms fully extended and your chest held high. This is your start position. Now, pull the bar slowly down to the base of your neck while squeezing your shoulder blades back and together. Slowly return the bar to the starting position. (It should take about three seconds to pull the bar down and about two seconds to return the bar to its starting position). Proper breathing is very important, so remember to exhale as you pull the bar down and inhale as you return the bar to the starting position.

Exercise # 2 - Dumbbell Rows

The dumbbell row is a for developing the muscles of the mid-back.  Hold a dumbbell in one hand, and place the opposite knee on a bench. Lean forward, and place your other hand on the bench. Step to your side with the other leg bending your knee slightly. Proper form is very important on this exercise, so be careful that your lower back is not rounded. Hold the dumbbell fully extended beneath your shoulder. This is your starting position. Now, slowly pull the dumbbell to underarm height, squeeze your shoulder blade toward your spine and return slowly to the start position. The breathing pattern is to exhale as you pull the dumbbell toward you and inhale as you return to start.

Exercise # 3 - Lateral Dumbbell Raises

The lateral dumbbell raise develops and strengthens your shoulders. Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of you. Position your feet shoulder width apart, slightly bend your knees, and hold your chest high. This is your starting position. Bend your elbows slightly and raise your hands out to your sides about shoulder height (with your palms facing down). Then return to your starting position. Be careful to keep your forearm and your elbow at the same level at the finish of this movement. Your breathing pattern is to exhale as you raise your arms up and inhale as you return to start.