Any plans to watch the end of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships this weekend? Like football and golf, professional tennis athletes often incorporate chiropractic care into their practice regimen. One of the conditions chiropractors treat players for is tennis elbow—but you might be surprised to learn that the majority of people who experience this condition don’t actually play tennis! Sports enthusiast and former athlete, Dr. Shamika Cordis, D.C., Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of Avondale, shares her thoughts on relieving the symptoms of tennis elbow and how to continue healing at home.
Who Gets Tennis Elbow?
Up to half of professional tennis players and between 1 to 3 percent of the general population are affected by tennis elbow. But don’t let these stats mislead you! Less than 5 percent of tennis elbow cases are a result of playing tennis. “Anyone can develop tennis elbow,” says Dr. Shamika. “I’ve seen patients who have developed it for various reasons, from lifting weights to yard work.”
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Formally known as “lateral epicondylitis,” tennis elbow is caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons connected to the lateral epicondyle, a small projection of the bone inside the elbow. “Stress on these muscles and tendons from repetitive motions, like swinging a racquet or hitting backhand, cause micro tears,” explains Dr. Shamika. “This results in inflammation, pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.”
Drug Treatments for Tennis Elbow
Often patients are prescribed steroid treatments such as injections or oral medication. These treatments are sometimes necessary and might help in the short-term, but can potentially cause serious long-term damage—especially if usage becomes chronic, such as injections to the same site for the same issues. High dosages of steroid pills—and some continuous injection use—can cause skin thinning, weight gain, acne, elevated blood pressure, osteoporosis and bone softening. Even scarier still, there are cases where steroid use has resulted in avascular necrosis, otherwise known as bone death.
Also, masking pain and symptoms with a drug may cause you to injure yourself further. “Say I sprain my ankle, I get a cortisone shot and I’m no longer feeling any pain,” she describes. “Then I get back out on to the court—but my sprain actually hasn’t fully healed. I’m potentially making the issue I have a lot worse and lessening my body’s chance of healing.”
Chiropractic Care and Tennis Elbow
You may be surprised, but chiropractors can adjust your elbow to help relieve symptoms of tennis elbow and jumpstart the healing process. Also, Dr. Shamika often does soft tissue work on patients suffering from tennis elbow to help decrease the pain they’re experiencing. During visits at Chiro One, she also directs her patients to exercises and therapies they can do in the clinic and at home.
Treatment at Home
In addition to chiropractic therapy, Dr. Shamika encourages patients to continue their treatment at home. Icing your elbow can provide relief, as well as softly massaging the area that is sore.
Different exercises and stretches help as well. For example, sit with your arms outstretched and your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Gently bend your wrist back with your opposite hand. Now stretch your wrists the opposite way by pointing your fingers to the ground and gently bending your wrist down with your opposite hand.