Now the summer months have arrived, and Wimbledon is over, you may be thinking about taking up Tennis. Maybe for the first time or picking up again from when you were younger. With this, it is important to be aware of what injuries/problems you might face and what you can do to help or prevent them. 

Tennis puts strain on both the shoulder and elbow joints on top of the general hip/knee/ankle joints from running and changing pace. Some common complaints are shoulder impingement syndrome and of course Tennis Elbow.

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a term used when it is painful when lifting the arm out to the side between 70 and 120 degrees- known as the “painful arc”. There may also be weakness when lifting the arm and swelling/inflammation.

Diagnosis’ associated with this include but are not limited to: 

  • Rotator cuff injury/tendinopathy
  • Subacromial bone spurs
  • SLAP injuries (Superior Labral Anterior-Posterior) 
  • Bursitis of the subacromial bursa
  • Bicipital tendinopathy

These can be caused by several aspects, the most common being: repetitive movement, overuse, trauma, degeneration or a sudden, jerky movement e.g. hitting a tennis ball with force.

With the use of orthopaedic testing, we can help to get to the bottom of which pathology you are most likely to have and put together a treatment plan to reduce pain symptoms and decrease time spent recovering. Using a range of techniques, we can aim to create space within the joint and reduce pain by working through all the muscles around the joint, looking for trigger points and increasing ROM using different types of stretching and strengthening. 

To help prevent such injuries, it is important to strengthen the muscles around the joint and ensure you are maintaining correct posture and support throughout your training and playing.

Some ways you can do this is by using a resistance band or weights and doing the below exercises.

Bent over row – Lean forwards to a 45-degree angle and pull both arms backwards towards you, keeping your elbows tucked in. This will help to strengthen your back and shoulders.

Lift your arm to 90 degrees and rotate your arm backwards while holding a dumbbell or resistance band. This will help to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles.

Either place one end of a resistance band under your foot and one end in your hand or hold both ends at waist level. Bring one arm out to the side and then slowly bring it back down. This will help with strengthening and mobilising your shoulder.

Raise your arm 90 degrees and rotate inwards, using a band or dumbbell for resistance. If it is painful to lift the arm 90 degrees, keep the elbow tucked in and just internally rotate towards the body. This is a strengthening exercise for the rotator cuff muscles.

Tennis Elbow (also known as Lateral epicondylitis) is where there is pain around the lateral epicondyle of the Humerus. It can also be aggravated with a twisting movement, e.g. turning a door handle. Generally, it is caused by overuse and forceful extension, supination or radial deviation. No, it is not necessarily caused by playing tennis!

The symptoms of tennis elbow can be treated through different massage techniques including treating trigger points, strengthening exercises, active stretches, cross-fibre friction and many more.

The elbow itself is the common attachment point for the wrist extensors. Therefore, treating these muscles and the wrist flexors for any trigger points may have a huge impact on reducing the symptoms. Also, in some cases, trigger points in other muscles e.g. Triceps can refer pain down into this area, giving similar pain patterns. (see diagram to the left)What can you do to help yourself? Ice directly onto the attachment point (the “hurty” bit) will help to relieve some symptoms as it has an anaesthetic effect.

Although it sounds obvious, it is also important to identify the movement that is aggravating the pain and reduce or stop it. It is usually mouse-clicking, gripping an object or playing a certain sport. You need to allow your arm the time to rest. 

Another way to help alleviate symptoms of Tennis elbow is to stretch the wrist extensors (hairy side of the arm). Please see some examples below. 

Once you have been treated, your therapist may then give you exercises to strengthen the muscles. Although, this is important that the patient has been treated and the condition is controlled before doing strengthening exercises as symptoms can be aggravated again and made worse. 

If you have any further questions regarding tennis shoulder or elbow injuries or would like to book a sports massage treatment please give us a call on 01702 342329.