Tennis elbow is something you probably don’t hear a lot about – until you’ve got it and you want to learn literally everything there is to know.
The truth is, it’s a nasty condition that can arise from several different activities, and often take you by surprise – causing pain and discomfort. Unlike the name suggests, it’s not actually caused exclusively by playing tennis but by any sport that repetitively loads the forearm extensor muscles. Tennis elbow is known in the medical community as lateral epicondylitis.
So what is this tennis elbow, and what causes it?
Here are 8 causes and how to avoid them
1. Repetitive activities
Unfortunately, it’s the things we need to do over and over again that will do it for you. Tennis elbow is often the result of repetitive activities such as typing, clicking a mouse, or lifting up heavy boxes day in and day out. Make sure you’re breaking up lengthy activities with breaks or alternative tasks to take the pressure off your elbow joint.
Tip: set a reminder to take a 5-minute break throughout the day to ease off and allow your body time to recover from repetitive tasks.
2. Racquet sports, climbing, and weightlifting
Tennis elbow can be caused by multiple different sports – not just tennis. Rock climbing and weightlifting are common causes of tennis elbow – as are sports involving swinging of the arm and intense pressure on the elbows.
Tennis elbow often arises when you’re not used to a certain type of sport or activity and then suddenly engage heavily in said activity.
If you’re new to a sport – always take it easy and use the right equipment. Always make sure you’re using proper technique – especially when weightlifting or climbing.
3. Odd jobs around the house
As if chores around the home weren’t already annoying enough – tennis elbow is known to attack those who engage in repetitive gardening activities. We’re talking lifting a wheelbarrow up and down all day – or raking leaves vigorously. Painting walls and ceilings in your home often involve awkward positions and engaging muscles that probably haven’t been used in a while. This is yet another common cause of tennis elbow from daily work around the home.
4. Using tools
If you’re a handyman/woman you’ll probably already know the struggles of keeping your hands and elbows free from aches and pains, especially when you’re faced with hours of work on the power tools. Hammering and using a hand saw are also commonly associated with tennis elbow. The back and forth movement can sometimes overwhelm the elbow and cause inflammation in the joint.
Tip: Avoid this by taking breaks and using ergonomic solutions to what would normally be a rough scenario.
5. Occupations that involve repetitive wrist and forearm movements
Home removalists, mechanics, or anyone involved with the fabrication of raw materials or working in a factory will attest to the extreme number of repetitive tasks that take a toll on the wrists and forearms. Taking a look at how you can improve your working environment is essential to avoiding tennis elbow and other joint problems. Always ask your supervisor if you believe you’re lacking the right equipment to make the job safe and comfortable.
6. Cutting up materials and ingredients
If you’re working with food and find yourself cutting up meat daily you should also be aware of tennis elbow. Any ‘hacking’ movements particularly aggravate the forearm and put abnormal stress on the elbow – increasing the risk of tennis elbow. Make sure to use the right tools when cutting up tougher meats to avoid overdoing it on the ‘hacking’ bit. Use sharp knives and cleavers to minimise the effort.
Unfortunately, anyone who likes hitting up the green on a Sunday will also have to remain aware of tennis elbow. The swinging motions involved in golfing are known to put extra strain on the elbow – especially if poor technique is used. Serial golfers should take care not to over-stress their forearms and take the appropriate time to rest and recover after a long day of swinging and putting.
8. Chin-ups, pushups, and bench presses
Even by putting in the hard work, you can be rewarded with… a trip to the physio, tennis elbow being the reason.
Chin-ups rely on the strenuous force being applied to the forearm as you lift up your bodyweight – often using your elbow as a fulcrum. This can harm your elbow’s extensor muscles which can, in turn, irritate your tendons and give you a tennis elbow.
Tip: Use rubber resistance bands to break up your exercise – that way your elbow is more cushioned while exercising.
Physio for tennis elbow – what you need to know
Tennis elbow can become an issue quickly and without warning. It can also be the result of some of your most loved and treasured activities – making it more difficult to control.
That’s why getting help from a qualified physio is so important to reduce the swelling and relieve your elbow of inflammation and pain. If you notice your elbow is under stress, either from work or other strenuous activities, make sure you catch it early. Book an appointment with a physio near you today.