Many folks who play tennis eventually notice a burning sensation along the outside edge of their elbow. Usually they ignore it, until it becomes so bad that they run to their doctor, who gives them a steroid injection and suggests physical therapy.
Meanwhile, they wrap it, ice it, and continue to try to play, often to their own detriment.
But what exactly is ‘tennis elbow’? More importantly, what’s the best way to treat it and keep it from returning?
‘Tennis Elbow’ (Latin: elbowum hurticus muchicus) is a form of tendinitis often caused by ‘trigger points’ in the top of the forearm. These trigger points prevent the muscle(s) from stretching the way they’re supposed to during extension of the arm while serving the ball. In other words, when you’re gripping the racket, and ‘whacking’ the ball, your arm has to go through a full-range-of-motion, requiring the muscles in the forearm to elongate through the serve. But if some of those muscles are ‘locked shut’, which is what ‘trigger points’ do to the muscle filaments, the tendon(s) of the muscle(s) up near the elbow will become strained, and even start to tear a little, creating a burning sensation at the site of the muscle attachment.
Why I don’t like steroid injections . . .
Two reasons: First, the steroid may take down the inflammation caused by the injured tendon, but it doesn’t fix the problem, so eventually it comes back, and often with a vengeance. And second- if a tendon is already injured, poking it with a needle, thereby creating more scar-tissue, seems hardly the right approach.
Here’s what I do . . .
I try to locate the offending muscle, and release the ‘trigger-point’. Pretty simple, huh? I then use ‘cross-fiber-friction’ (a specific massage technique) to break down any adhesive scar tissue that has built up, thus restoring full range of motion to the affected area.
But I don’t stop there. No siree . . . !There’s an even more important step to be done. Education. That’s right . . . education. I explain to people (as I’m doing to you right now) the exact nature of their injury, and then show them how to self-massage the area so they can work on themselves in the future on a regular (and cost-free) basis.
When it comes to ‘Tennis Elbow’ (and its twin-cousin ‘Golfers Elbow’), I have had much success with this approach. Granted, it’s not covered by insurance, and it requires a little more action on the part of the client, but hey, which would you rather- a complete repair or just temporary relief?