Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Tennis Elbow and how to deal with it.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a physio or a faith healer but I have and still do occasionally suffer from tennis elbow. All advice below is from a layman and is noted down from experience.
If you have never suffered from tennis elbow then you are one of the lucky ones.
If you have, then you know all about that innocuous pain which isn’t really there until you pick up the scalding hot cup of coffee and your elbow screams so loud you spill it on yourself or turning the key in your front door hurts so much you think about living in the garden for the rest of your life.
The onset is sudden, the pain is very very nasty and the length of the healing process is just too long to be acceptable.
Within the group of guys we play with, 70% have experienced it at some point. We all come from different disciplines of racket sports so it’s not a specific sport that makes you susceptible to it. Both Richard and I have had it with differing levels of pain but obviously mine was significantly worse than his.
Here is what the NHS says about tennis elbow. Click here
What exactly is tennis elbow?
It’s basically an inflammation of the tendon where the forearm muscle connects to the elbow joint. It normally happens because of an injury or overuse of the muscle which then won’t move properly and so the tendon needs to compensate(tendons aren’t really designed to stretch and move around like muscles). Eventually the tendon rubs the bone entry point and becomes inflamed itself. Then it just hurts, a lot!
It can be caused by lots of different things. From shoulder mobility, tight forearm muscles, a wrist strain or even an impact injury to a finger.
We have experienced the onset from a multitude of innocuous events. From scraping moss off a roof, trying to start garden equipment or just clipping a padel ball off the frame of a padel racket. You feel it, you hate it, you pray it will just go away and then you mentally cry a little.
How did we deal with Tennis Elbow
Richard and I are different people, we behave differently, sometimes impatient, sometimes aggressive and sometimes stupidly wishful thinking.
We have both gone down the physio route, do this, do that and REST. We have gone down the YouTube self heal route do this, don’t do that and REST and we have gone down the enforced lockdown route, do nothing (while getting fat) and being forced to REST. To be fair the latter one did work somewhat but it’s not that practical on a long term basis.
Rest definitely helps while not exactly aiding your padel playing. Also It gives you no idea of when to start playing again. Many a false start has occurred which immediately puts your 2-3 week rest period back to square one.
Here is a useful Exercise PDF for stretches.
What can you do when Tennis elbow strikes?
Get some ice on it when you feel it or when you aggravate it. While that bag of peas is slowly defrosting, think about your rehab period because right now it’s a waiting game. When you decide to go back to padel you are probably going to need a pressure strap. We have tried several and we have found that the main thing is it should be reasonably tight when using it but obviously don’t cut your blood supply off! The cheaper ones will come loose quite often during play and will need to be tightened regularly but everyone has different budgets and that obviously will affect your choice.
What the strap does is effectively shorten the muscle and “locks off” the point at which the tendon moves and hurts. Always follow the strap instructions. We found straps useful as a rehab tool after the REST period. We do not think a strap should be bought as an alternative to the REST period.
This is something we should all do but generally seems to amount to the last 30 seconds before going on court having arrived 30 seconds before that and run into the club while checking our phones. Amongst our friends what seems to count as warm up can be as short as a couple of (tight) hamstring stretches or maybe one knee clicking squat. Then it’s straight into the court and smash balls at each other as hard as they can across the net.
What does help?
I now get to the court 15mins early and I have made it part of my padel routine.
I do some simple arm swings, shoulder rotations and then begin to mimic certain padel shots but without the racket. I then add the padel racket and repeat the process but with the added weight and air resistance that the padel racket brings to the movements. I then lightly stretch my shoulders and wrists against a wall. All this takes me about 5mins and since I started doing it I’ve had no issues with tennis elbow. Richard was doing this with me until his elbow got better and then he stopped. He now has tennis elbow again and is into his 2 weeks off playing while he RESTS it!
This is good for me as he has time to concentrate on getting the best deals for our customers and I can get on with the important stuff, actually playing padel.
We really hope none of you get tennis elbow but if you do, we hope this post will help.
If nothing else, at least you have something to read while you REST!
I think we need to claim the name for ourselves. Going forward I will say that I have previously suffered from “Padel elbow”. I mean it’s the same thing as tennis elbow but just that little bit cooler. Kind of the same as Richard and me, we are both men of roughly the same age but I am just that little bit cooler!