Surely you have heard the term tennis elbow or epicondylitis in medical jargon. It is one of the most common injuries in paddle tennis players, causing discomfort and pain in the elbow that prevent us from playing.
In today's article we are going to explain what epicondylitis is, what its causes are, and what are the best tips to avoid suffering from it.
What is epicondylitis?
Epicondylitis is an injury that affects the epicondyle, producing pain and inflammation in the area. We will start by seeing what the epicondyle is:
The elbow joint is made up of 3 bones, the HUMERUS, the RADIUS, and the ULNER. At the bottom and outer part of the humerus is a bony protrusion, which is called the lateral epicondyle. The epicondylar musculature is inserted into this protuberance.
And what is the epicondylar musculature?
It is a group of 5 muscles whose main function is the extension of the wrist and fingers and supination (turning the hand so that the palm faces the ceiling)
It is a rather annoying injury that sometimes becomes chronic, being one of the most common injuries in paddle tennis and other racket sports. This injury does not only affect racket sports, but also affects the general population, without the need to perform any related sport.
This injury can appear in many daily jobs this injury arises (typing, computing, carpentry...). When these works are combined with the practice of paddle tennis, the recovery from this injury becomes more complicated-
What are the most common causes of epicondylitis or tennis elbow?
The most common causes within the paddle that can cause epicondylitis are:
- Poor hitting technique, especially in shots like the backhand or the spike.
- Increase in the number of games when we are not used to loading the arm so much.
- Racks with a very high balance or too stubborn as they make us pull a lot of the muscles upwards and overload the epicondyle area.
- Excessively heavy blades, which require a greater load on the arm.
- Rackets made with materials that give them a lot of hardness, which will force us to put more force on the ball so that it comes out, overloading the arm.
- Change of blade between very different models which makes the musculature, accustomed to working with a certain weight, balance and hardness, begin to work with other different muscle fibers that were not used to it.
- Weak muscles and their overload.
What are the most common symptoms of epicondylitis?
- Pain on the outside of the elbow, often radiating to the forearm or upper arm.
- Loss of strength, which can even force us to drop what we have in hand. The object does not need to be very heavy. It usually begins to be noticed in daily tasks such as picking up a glass, a plate, etc….
- Mobility of the elbow is not altered as a general rule.
- Pain when straightening or lifting the wrist or hand, especially in the lateral area of the elbow.
How can we cure epicondylitis or tennis elbow?
There are treatments that can be effective without having to go to a specialist:
- In the first instance, cold should be applied for 15 minutes every hour for the first 48 or 72 hours until the pain disappears.
- Performing arm exercises and stretching, preferably with elastic bands.
- Taking anti-inflammatories, either orally or through creams, also helps reduce inflammation in the area and reduce pain, always under the supervision of a doctor.
- Bracelets and elbow pads help relieve pain, but they are temporary “patches”. The function of the bracelet is to “cut off” the irrigation from the arm to the elbow so that you do not feel the pain, but all that load that is generated during the match, once the bracelet is removed at the end, goes up to the elbow, producing the natural pain of the injury.
- Reduce the practice of paddle tennis to a minimum while there is pain.
If the symptoms persist over time, it is best to go to a physiotherapist so that they can indicate the treatment to be carried out.
From Alkemia we have been able to speak with Cristina Rodríguez, physiotherapist at the Clínica Hélycis de Oviedo and she has indicated the treatments that they use to treat said injury:
- Application of diathermy (INDIBA) in the epicondylar tendon and muscle area. To try to reduce the "inflammation" of the area and relax the muscles.
- Dry needling in the epicondylar musculature, to lower the tension of that musculature and thus prevent the tendon from “suffering”.
- Local electrotherapy in the tendon. Such as TENS, interferential currents, ultrasound or laser in order to achieve analgesia in the area and reduce inflammation.
- Neuromuscular bandage or kinesiotape: after the physiotherapy session, to maintain the effect of the treatment.
- Exercises: to tone that musculature and rebalance forces with the opposing musculature. In addition, these exercises will also help us to improve the quality of the tendon (for this reason, absolute rest in the area is not recommended).
Which blades are better to avoid epicondylitis / recover from epicondylitis?
The rackets that will best treat this injury are those that meet the following requirements:
- Round blades: These blades have a lower balance, towards the fist, which will make it easier to move and less demanding on the arm.
- Wide sweet spot: also characteristic of round blades, the larger the sweet spot, the fewer vibrations the blade will transmit to the arm.
- Low manufacturing weight, thus avoiding overloading the arm.
- Soft rubber core, which absorbs the ball and gives us a good ball release from the back of the court, thus avoiding having to exert a lot of force with the arm.
If we opt for a shovel with these characteristics, we will be able to reduce the load on our arm as much as possible, helping us to treat and prevent this injury.