Almost every tennis player suffers from tennis elbow in his or her career at least once. Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, can be a pesky problem to get rid of.
You know the feeling: it's like a sharp knife entering the elbow whenever you strike a backhand, especially when you hit a little bit off center. While this could be a harsh negative reinforcement to hit clean, it's not very pleasant.
Sometimes the elbow pain can get so bad that you can't even lift a water bottle in your hand to refresh yourself.
Common strategies to treat a tennis elbow are rest, ice, pain medication, cortisone shots and gels, acupuncture and physiotherapy. While these strategies are pretty standard, they may not be as efficient because they concentrate on the symptoms instead of the cause.
Locate the Source
A smarter way is to look at why the pain started in the first place.
Some theories suggest flawed tennis technique can cause tennis elbow. Using an inappropriate tennis racket or strings can cause it, for example. Holding the grip too tightly can also cause pain. You can improve this by holding with a loose grip and only a few fingers on the handle. Try to swing effortlessly with great acceleration, rather than forcing your shots.
But fixing tennis technique might not end all pain. According to Dr. Pete Egoscue, when the joint symmetry is off balance, the body cannot perform optimally and without injuries. If the shoulders are not properly aligned directly above the hips while performing athletic movements, unnecessary forces impact the muscles and tendons.
Sitting and slouching too much causes the shoulders to permanently tilt forward. This causes the chest muscles to shorten and weakens the back of the shoulders. When your shoulders spend the entire day in this compromised position, and then you step on the tennis court and play for hours, extra force goes through your elbows, wrists and shoulders.
The elbows and wrists are delicate, which is why repetitive stress is often felt there. The tendons attaching around the elbows get micro-tears and get inflamed, which eventually causes tennis elbow.