Tennis elbow snuck up on me on me a few years back and then its evil twin brother, golfer’s elbow, hit me with crippling effect last year — not in one elbow, but both of them. That’s a double-whammy of a very painful condition that can certainly sideline you from some very enjoyable pastimes.
Ironically, it would seem, this painful condition is associated with two sports that people enjoy in their retirement years or at least in the years they are too old to play lacrosse or tackle football. Tennis is a leisurely sport for most and golf even more leisurely than that. But the tendinitis condition is associated with repetition, not a singular traumatic event. So lots of play over the years, which may even accelerate when you retire, repetitive motion and an aging body are the perfect storm for tendinitis.
This explains why my brother — a twin brother, but one that is not so evil — had to give up the guitar for several years due to tennis elbow. It was the repetition of strumming over the course of 40 years that caught up with him and the pain was enough to make him quit one of the central joys of his life. (Luckily, some years later, he picked up the guitar again and has not seen a return of the elbow pain.)
It is often asked why tennis pros do not get tennis elbow. One of the reasons has already been suggested: It’s generally a condition that strikes older folks. But some postulate that conditioning and superior technique allow the professional athlete to avoid tennis elbow.
There may be a lot to that. I spent a week downhill skiing in my forties — a sport I am not very used to — and I did so with the company of a brother-in-law who spent much of his life on the slopes. He was younger than I and in better shape, but he also knew how to glide past every little mogul on the hill, whereas I slammed into each one with full force. By the end of the week, I could barely walk, my knees were so battered, leaving no doubt that conditioning and technique can help you avoid the dreary, persistent pain of tendinitis.
Do professional tennis players ever get tendinitis?
Yes, says Allen Willette, who describes himself as a neuromuscular therapist in Corte Madera, Calif. He says he has treated a few professionals for tennis elbow, including one national champion and several club professionals, who work generally as local tennis coaches. And while neuromuscular therapist might be a fancy name for a masseuse and the unnamed national champion may have been someone who just won in the 50 years and older division, the specialty concentrates on treatment of soft body tissue, such as rotator cuff injuries and tennis elbow – and Willette is certainly professional enough not to divulge the name his patients on the Internet. That aside, search for a famous athlete with tennis or golf elbow and you won’t find much online.
So what’s the difference between golf and tennis elbow? Golf elbow is tendinitis on the inside of the elbow and tennis on the outside.
But now once you’ve got it, what can be done about it?
There are four basic therapies for tendinitis and medications that help, such as Tylenol or aspirin or any other painkiller, especially one that reduces swelling.
The four options include a cortisone shot, which reduces swelling and can provide months of relief. There are also stretching exercises, which can address the conditioning issue and increase agility. And then there is rest. But be forewarned, conditioning exercise and rest can bring relief in a month or it may take up to six months or a year before relief is found.
The more novel technique is to use a compression sleeve for tennis elbow, a device that is one of the wonders of modern medicine, because it is such a simple, side-effect free solution that provides instant relief to a very pain full condition at an extremely affordable price.
You see the sleeves frequently. Some of them start below and end above the elbow and others wrap around the forearm just below the elbow. The material often makes the arm look as if it was in a very thin cast – so thin, it doesn’t seem to interfere with mobility or strength at all.
If you want to know how they work, simply take one hand and tightly grip your opposite forearm just under the elbow and move your elbow around.
This is a mechanical fix. By squeezing on either side of the elbow, you put extra tension on the tendon, which causes it to lift away from the bone (the elbow) that it has been knocking and rubbing against all those years.
While providing immediate and direct relief, the sleeves are not a cure, however. But they are not a painkiller, either, that can block the pain putting you in a position to go out and continue injuring the tendon. Since the relief is mechanical, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the sleeve and continue to play. In the long run, however, the best cure for tennis and golfers elbow conditions is something called winter. Put the racquet and the clubs away for six month and that will often do the trick. Tendons are very slow to heal, which is why they say a broken bone is better than a sprained ankle. Nonetheless, rest, stretches, cold and hot compresses, cortisone and compression sleeves are a fair arsenal for dealing with a painful reminder that you are not getting any younger.
Do you suffer from golf or tennis elbow? We hope this article helped you out!
Written by Ashley Roberts