Golfers and Tennis Elbow may sound like sports injuries, but these dysfunctions are caused by overuse injuries and repetitive motion of the wrist and hand. This becomes extremely problematic when it affects the attachment of the musculo-tendinous junctions on the bones. When the body becomes injured it sends blood to the area to deliver nutrients, repair damaged cells, and carry away by-products. One of the issues with tendon injuries is that tendons already receive poor blood supply making injuries to them more difficult to heal and slowing the process.
Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow, or Lateral Epicondylitis, is caused by overuse and inflammation to the wrist extensor tendon which displays as pain on the outside of the elbow. An example of this could be when a tennis player that swings through during their serve. During the swing wrist flexion is used to get the power they need, but will then use wrist extension to stop the momentum after the serve. Through repeated serves the tendons keep becoming loaded with more and more stress till eventually the injury happens.
Golfers Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)
Golfers elbow or Medial Epicondylitis is caused by overuse and inflammation to the wrist flexor tendon, which can lead to pain on the inside of the elbow. A example of this could be an individual who engages in hobbies related to grip strength. This could include squeezing heavy weights or a rock climber over-gripping to stay on the wall.
Common causes of golfers and tennis elbow include:
· Strenuous overuse of muscles and tendons of the forearm
· Tight forearm muscles and poor strength
· Excessive gripping or wringing (twisting the wrist) activities
· Uncommon activities or usage
· Improper or inadequate warm-ups before heavy usage or bad form
Symptoms of Golfers Elbow and Tennis Elbow
· Pain on the inside and outside of the elbow
· Burning on the attachment points
· Numbness or tingling sensation radiating to 1 or more fingers
· Have difficulty moving your elbow
· Stiffness in your elbow
· Fatigue in the affected muscle or joint
· Hand, wrist, shoulder, and neck pain
What should you do if you have Tennis or Golfers Elbow?
The first thing you need to do if possible is stop or reduce the activity that is causing the dysfunction. This will give your injury some time to heal. Wearing a brace can also help to reduce strain on the muscles.
Often the tendons are put under pressure due to tight wrist muscles. During the recovery and prevention phase you can loosen the wrist flexors and extensors to make sure the tendons have ample give and are able to relax. This can be done using deep tissue, cupping, and gua sha to not only loosen the muscles but break up and scar tissue and adhesions formed.
Massage therapy can also use other techniques to engage the dysfunctional tissue such as: deep tissue massage, myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy, acupressure, cross-fiber frictions. Other techniques such as Swedish and petrissage can be use to bring fluids in and out off the muscle-tendon attachments.
You can use cold temperatures like an ice pack to help with pain and reduce inflammation in the tender and inflamed spot. Use heat to help with the healing process and bring in lots of fresh blood full of nutrients to the healing tendons.
Contrast therapy can be used which is the process of alternating between heat and cold applications. You can use heat to bring blood and nutrients into the damaged tissue using a heat back, hot towel, bath, or sauna. Then use cold to bring debris away from injury site using resources such as ice, cold towel, ice pack or frozen food.
Topicals and Medication
You can use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. Topicals such as CBD, Biofreeze, or other menthol based products can also help with inflammation and pain.
How to Prevent these dysfunctions from returning
Working on strength exercises for your wrist flexors and extensors can help prevent this injury from occurring again. One of the best ways to do this is with eccentric contractions which involve lengthening and engaging them at the same time. This could be thought of as working the back muscles by jumping up to the top of a bar, holding yourself there, then slowly letting yourself down.
Making sure your muscles remain healthy by lengthening the fibers and ensuring proper range of motion. This can be done by using static stretches after workouts and lengthening the forearm muscles for at least 30 seconds. Before activity you can do wrist circles for some functional flexibility to warm them up. For people who sit at a keyboard both can be beneficial.
When you start to feel tightness use your other hand and pinch down one the muscle fibers and do wrist circles working your way down the wrist towards the hands. This is your own way to lengthen muscle fibers.
Golfer's and Tennis Elbow can cause a lot of pain in your elbows and wrists lasting for a long time if left un-attended. With proper care such as rest, massage therapy, and hydrotherapy you can increase your speed of recovery. Be proactive because it’s always easier to prevent injuries than recover from them.