Preventing Epicondylitis

Tennis player wearing an elbow bandage

Epicondylitis – more commonly known as Tennis Elbow – is an overuse injury caused by  the strain of repetitive motion; it can lead to pain and swelling that makes regular activity difficult. Although it is generally treatable at home, preventing it altogether is even better.

Tennis elbow is a condition affecting the tendons in the elbow, which develop stress injuries created by overuse of the wrist and elbow. The pain can be felt in the tendons that run through the forearm, where they attach at the bony knob on the outside of the elbow; in some cases, the pain may radiate into the wrist as well.

Although epicondylitis is called tennis elbow, tennis players aren’t the only people who should be on the lookout for it – in fact, it more commonly affects people whose hobbies or occupations require repeated activity in the arms and elbows. This means that plumbers, painters, butchers, carpenters, and manual laborers, who regularly turn cranks, pound hammers, and extend and retract their arms, are all at a higher risk for the condition.

Ensuring proper form is one of the most important steps you can take to help prevent tennis elbow: using an incorrect technique or posture, especially over time, increases your risk. Consult a colleague or fellow athlete to critique your form if necessary. Avoiding overuse as much as possible can also help, so take breaks as needed and try alternating hands if possible.

The equipment you use can also help prevent epicondylitis. Whether it’s a racquet for a sport you play or a tool used on the job, make sure it’s the correct size and weight for not only your body and strength level, but also for the task at hand. A counterforce brace may be an option for some people, although they’re used more for therapy and recovery than for prevention; discuss it with your doctor if you think it may help.

Prevention goes farther than just your arms: keeping in good physical shape overall is a good way to prevent pain and injury. Carrying excess weight adds strain to the tendons, and weak muscles elsewhere in the body aren’t strong enough to help the tendons perform their job, which adds additional stress. Do some strength training exercises to develop the muscles in the shoulders, arms, and upper back, all of which will help support the tendons of the elbow.

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