A couple of people I know have mentioned they have Tennis elbow.
I’ve had Tennis elbow a couple of times, the first time it was so bad I couldn’t even lift a cup of tea up without excruciating pain. The second time I had what can only be described as a low-level tweak or twinge but it was unmistakable to me as the first sign of a Tennis elbow problem just starting to form.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Playing Tennis could be the cause of the initial problem but not always. It can be caused by many different repetitive strain injuries. The NHS suggests these as possible causes, manual work – such as plumbing or bricklaying activities that involve fine, repetitive hand and wrist movements – such as using scissors or typing. More here NHS and Tennis Elbow
I’m going to focus on Tennis as the main culprit but you may wish to consider other repetitive causes especially if you don’t play much Tennis.
The first time I had Tennis elbow was caused due to an error on my part. I used to be a bit of a Tennis fanatic and not only played when I could but would also read about Tennis and how to improve.
I remember reading an article about gripping the racket and how tight it should be. So, I started to grip the racket ever tighter and I seemed to hit the ball better but… there was a problem and it started with a twinge.
Here’s what one person had to say;
Mark Verstegen on Tennis Elbow
“The majority of tennis elbow results from chronic overloading and under-recovery due to poor biomechanics caused by grip style and size, and related movement pattern dysfunction” says Mark Verstegen, president and founder of Athletes’ Performance. “Sixty-five percent of tennis injuries like tennis elbow are classified as overuse/overload injuries and are traditionally overcome with the proper training, preparation, progression and movement pattern correction like those found in the Core.”
In my case, I had made a mistake because the article I had read related to holding the racket with a continental grip. By the way, this was how everyone used to hold the racket. The article suggested tightening the grip strength at the point you connect with the ball.
My Tennis grip on forehand and backhand had changed over the years and was now based on an Eastern grip. This is in-between a Continental and Semi-Western grip. The consequence of this meant the mechanics of the stroke had also changed, with a lot more top spin than was easily available using a Continental grip.
There are some quite good instructions on grip types available; Here covering all grip types for all strokes, detailing the Pros and Cons
In my case I had changed the way I held the racket, the stroke was different and the increase in grip strength combined to start Tennis elbow developing.
The slight twinge got progressively worse until one day I found picking up a cup of tea was almost impossible.
It would be fair to say that most people think Tennis elbow is a kind of inflammation in the Tendon. If you scour the web, this is what typically shows up. There are though other ideas, including; tears to the tendon, tears to ligaments, muscle imbalances and muscle knots, to name but a few.
Most treatment recommendations are based on resting the arm, using ice, taking Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a strap on the arm, physiotherapy, steroid joint injection or having surgery.
Quick note; I did once have a steroid injection for a knee problem, the result was the complete removal of any pain, at least to start with because within two weeks the pain was worse than ever. Please check with your GP because powerful medicines like steroids may weaken the tissues with repeated use.
My knee problem was finally solved with an operation and six months rehab.
Alternative Ideas and Therapies
There are, though, other things you can try but before you do, you may want to do a quick bit of analysis to see where your Tennis elbow came from. You could be one of the many people who have Tennis elbow but it originated in something other than Tennis.
From a clinical standpoint, there doesn’t seem to be an agreed cause for Tennis elbow (see above) and for that reason, I think it’s worth trying lots of things to see what works in your case.
In my case, I found great relief from two different therapies. The second therapy has in fact been used on other muscle aches and pains to great effect and I do wonder why we don’t hear a lot more about it?
Almost forget to mention, there are dozens of videos on YouTube which are worth searching out, offering variations on muscle manipulation, stretching and strengthening. They may offer some much-needed relief.
Since I’ve already posted a review of this on Amazon, it’s been cut and pasted here;
“I bought one of these many years ago, from a well-known UK Chemist. I was desperate for something to help with Tennis Elbow which had become so bad that I couldn’t even lift a mug of tea without feeling acute pain.
I had up to that point tried; resting the elbow joint, cold followed by hot packs and some physiotherapy.
Came across this device whilst looking around for something that might help.
The Novasonic was nicely put together (mine is still working over many years). Using it was straightforward, it has a small wheel which enabled me to control the intensity. This works on intra-sound which is not the same nor as dangerous as ultrasound. Anyone can use this it certainly worked for me.
For my treatment, I used it for around 15 minutes per session and repeated it three times per day. The head of the unit can get very hot as it vibrates very fast but apart from that, it’s very safe to use.
The instructions were good and explained how to get the best out of it. Generally, this means moving the unit near the painful area and gradually working your way into or over the actual pain. As mentioned the device can be switched to a lower setting if it is too painful, you can build up the intensity over time.
In my case, it took around three weeks before becoming pain-free, could pick up a Tennis racket and resume where I had left off.
If my unit ever breaks, I will buy a replacement. It has been used for other muscle related problems and always seems to work for me.
You can find this on Amazon here; https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Health-Personal-Care/Novasonic-Popular/B001FNYSEU/
I’ve done quite a lot of sports over the years and usually been quite lucky with my overall health and fitness. These sports/activities have included;
- Table Tennis
- Horse Riding
- Hill Walking
Whilst my overall health has been generally good, I’ve suffered a couple of fractures whilst horse riding, had muscle spasms in my back, ligament tears/sprains and had a problem with a knee tendon that resulted in an operation.
This second therapy was researched and found after suffering what felt like a muscle knot in my back. It wasn’t really a problem in everyday life but stopped me doing certain exercises a little. Things like press-ups and pull-ups were awkward.
Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger Point Therapy is the second therapy I’d like to suggest. My original introduction came via a search that leads to Amazon and a product called; The Miracle Ball Method which can be found on Amazon here; https://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/0761128689/
Having had a persistent muscle knot for years and having tried physio therapy plus various other treatments I thought I’d give this a go.
The balls in question are soft enough to give a little and hard enough to support your weight (sort of spongy). The booklet that comes with them suggested lying down on one of the balls. So, I placed the ball on or near the seat of the muscle knot and relaxed.
At least I tried to relax, initially, it was uncomfortable but after a while, I did start to relax and stayed there for around 15 minutes. There was a kind of discomfort but a discomfort that I oddly seemed to quite like. It felt as though my muscle was being worked on but in a gentle way.
The funny thing was that this therapy worked. For the first time in years, my annoying muscle problem had gone away and I’ve been pain-free ever since.
Trigger Point therapy is not something Physiotherapist are taught. Not sure why this is but assume it’s still not mainstream.
Since trying The Miracle Ball Method (such a strange name)! I’ve come across other resources.
Trigger Points can and do create referred pain. So, you might have a pain in one part of your body but it feels tender somewhere else nearby.
I’ve since used Trigger Point therapy on what felt like the start of Tennis elbow. This time I found a tender spot on my arm which was not at the site of the pain. Careful kneading and manipulation have stopped any discomfort in its tracks.
A free resource is available here; http://www.triggerpoints.net/information
I’ve found another great resource which goes into huge amounts of depth and yet is very easy to use as a reference guide. It costs around $79 though but having said that, it is excellent and I do refer to it from time to time. You can find that here; https://www.painscience.com/tutorials/
Other Things to Consider
Getting Tennis elbow is no fun and in the worse cases, it can be quite debilitating.
Older players (it seems) will tend to suffer more and the tendency increases based on the frequency of playing.
It is though worth thinking about what causes Tennis elbow and removing/fixing the underlying cause.
Type of racket, the weight of the racket, strings used, handle size, stroke mechanics can all influence whether you will get Tennis elbow or not.
I happen to think that Tennis is not only a great sport, it can provide a sense of community, keeps people active and fit, is challenging and provides plenty of scopes to improve and enjoy more.
Hope you find some of this helpful.