Whenever someone gets a repetitive strain injury (also referred to as a repetitive motion injury) – injuries incurred due to the added strain of a repetitive task, exertion, compression, etc. – people immediately call it “tennis elbow”. This is actually usually a misnomer, for a number of reasons. Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow (or pitcher’s elbow) are both injuries to the muscles, ligaments and tendons around the elbow, but they differ in which parts of the elbow are affected.
Most of the time, when we talk about tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, we’re talking about cases of tendinitis or tendinopathy, in which the tendons of the elbow are strained and inflamed to the point of being pulled and/or torn. These injuries, if untreated can cause serious, chronic pain and damage to the joints of your arms. This could lead to major problems in the elbow, wrist and hand, requiring the aid of a hand surgeon.
To properly discuss how to prevent tennis elbow and/or golfer’s elbow, we should first go over common causes of elbow tendinitis and tendinopathy. After all, most people with tendinitis or tendinopathy have never swung a tennis racket or golf club in their lives.
Causes of Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow
Tennis elbow gets its name because the motion of swinging a racquet over and over again can cause a repetitive motion injury to the outer part of the elbow. However, tennis is by far not the only activity that can cause it. Likewises, golfer’s elbow does not necessarily come from too much time on the links. Other common causes of this ailment include:
- Weight Lifting
Any activity that is highly repetitive and requires you to bend and flex your elbows over and over again can cause tennis elbow. Activities that require you to make a fist and exert effort with your arms are more likely than those that involve little resistance, but it is still possible. After all, more and more people are getting tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow just from typing.
An Ounce of Prevention for Elbow Tendinopathy
Take a good, hard look at your daily activities. When you work out, do you warm up before you start lifting weights? Or do you just jump right in with the barbells? Failure to warm up and failure to use proper form when lifting are two of the main causes of exercise related elbow injuries. Likewise, if you are an avid tennis player or golfer, take some time to warm up your muscles before you get on the court or out on the links, and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.
If you’re not regularly lifting weights or participating in a sport that’s likely to cause a repetitive motion injury in your elbows, it’s likely that you might be at risk for getting tennis elbow as a work-related injury from typing too much in a non-ergonomic position. If your wrists aren’t level with or slightly above your fingers as you type, you’re at risk for hand and/or wrist injuries.
If your back is hunched and/or your elbows are below your hands when you type, you could be courting injury as well. Talk to your hand doctor about ergonomic tools that will help you maintain a good posture and typing position for your elbows, hands and wrists.