Health: How to take care of tennis elbow

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis can affect anyone doing repetitive lifting or gripping (Photo:

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis can affect anyone doing repetitive lifting or gripping (Photo: Marcavarro) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dr Ade Adejuwon, consultant in sports and exercise medicine at Spire Harpenden Hospital, on taking care of the elbow when playing racquet sports

Wimbledon may have finished for another year, but many of us have been inspired to dust off our tennis racquets and head to the courts with visions of being Andy Murray. Tennis is excellent for exercising the whole body but it can cause a painful elbow and injuries to the shoulder and knees due to the forces exerted.

Lateral elbow tendinopathy, or tennis elbow, is the most common cause of pain on the outside of the elbow. Although it can occur in up to 50 per cent of recreational tennis players, it can affect anyone who performs activities requiring repetitive lifting or gripping – even working out in the gym can cause it.

The pain typically comes on gradually – although occasionally it may relate to a specific injury – and can radiate down the forearm causing a weakness of grip that can make it difficult to hold a racquet, pick things up or if bad enough, even to give a handshake.

It’s important to note that there are other causes of lateral elbow pain such as elbow osteoarthritis, trapped nerves and wear and tear in the neck, so it is crucial the correct diagnosis is made.

Presently there is no one treatment for tennis elbow. Self-management through activity modification, applying topical anti-inflammatory and using a wrist splint or forearm strap may be enough to control symptoms. Physical therapy is the main form of treatment, but if unresponsive, shockwave treatment or platelet-rich-plasma injections have been shown to be effective. A small group of patients may need surgery if all else fails.

One way to avoid developing tennis elbow among tennis players is to make sure the right racquet is used, taking into consideration its weight and hand grip.

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Spire Harpenden offers expert consultation, a state-of-the-art radiology department and physiotherapy (including hydrotherapy).

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