Pickleball elbow, tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is one of the most common injuries picked up by pickleball players, and it is also one of the most painful and frustrating as it hugely effects your everyday life.
Prevention is better than a cure in my book, so to avoid tennis elbow in the first place take a look at these simple tips.
Pickleball Elbow Prevention
Something as simple as choosing the right paddle type, weight, size and grip can make a huge difference in preventing lateral epicondylitis. So to save yourself some pain, think carefully about which paddle you are playing with.
A proper fit is essential. A grip that is too small or too big may result in less control and excessive wrist and forearm movement. Check with your certified pickleball instructor to ensure the proper fit.
It is recommended that you test as many paddles as possible before deciding which to purchase. Consult with a pro or qualified salesperson to find one that is suited to your style of play.
- A graphite composite is considered best for shock (vibration) and torque control.
- A more flexible frame generates less shock-load to the arm than a stiffer one.
- An oversized paddle has a larger sweetspot, however if the ball is hit outside this area it is more difficult to control, thus creating excessive torque or torsion (bad for tennis elbow).
- Heavier paddles vibrate less – you can increase a paddle’s overall mass by adding lead tape to the racquet (add tape to the handle and NOT the head of the racket – head-heavy rackets cause more stress). The ideal paddle has a high sweet spot, combined with a head-light balance and adequate mass. Customizing you paddle with lead tape can help achieve this.
However, no matter how careful you are and what paddle you play with, you can still injure your self, so what are some simple treatments for recovering from pickleball elbow?
Treating Pickleball Elbow – Simple Steps
There are several, relatively simple steps that can be taken to treat pickleball elbow at its onset.
- Modify activity – Rest the sore area allowing time to heal and prevent further injury. Try taking breaks from your computer at work and avoid any activity that aggrivates the injury.
- Use an elbow strap – A strap can help rest the area and take pressure off the tendon attachment. The strap can be worn during work and/or while playing tennis.
- Use a wrist brace/splint – This keeps the wrist from going backward and takes stress off of the muscles and tendons at the elbow.
- Anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen or aspirin).
- Physical Therapy/Athletic Training – Treatment may consist of soft tissue and joint mobilization to the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand, as well as ultrasound, ice and/or iontophoresis (driving anti-inflammatory medication into the injured area) to the inflamed tissues.
The damage to your muscles and ligaments might require a little more than simple rest and anti inflammatory gels to heal, they may also require exercises and long term treatment.
You can increase your elbow’s range of motion by performing proper stretching exercises, particularly to the forearm. Therapeutic exercises strengthen the muscles which extend the wrist, affecting the backward movement of the wrist and hand through essentric movement (lengthening the involved muscle with controlled foreward movements of the hand and wrist while holding a weight)
Scapular stabilization exercises of the shoulder will help achieve better stroke technique. The primary purpose of these exercises is to strengthen the stabilizer muscles which control the shoulder position and emphasize overall proper posture. These should be followed by exercises of the dynamic muscles which perform the movement of the shoulder and arm (i.e. rotator cuff).
Core trunk stabilization exercises will enhance lower body mechanics. The primary purpose of these exercises is to strengthen the trunk stabilizer muscles which control the trunk muscles and proper posture for ultimate mechanics of trunk movement. Core trunk stabilization exercises also strengthen mobilzer muscles which are used to perform efficient and dynamic movement with power.
If conservative treatment has not been effective, your doctor may recommend a cortisone injection.
Proper rest following an injection is essential. Refer to your doctor for recommended dose, frequency and precautions regarding cortisone injections. It has been documented that repeated cortisone injections could cause damage to healthy tendons surrounding the injury site.
Long Term Treatment
Surgery is rarely recommended unless symptoms continue and interfere with your daily activities or sleep. There are two common types of procedures most often performed today:
- Removal of damaged tissue within the tendon (shaving down the bone and reattaching of the tendon).
- Arthroscopic surgery – physical therapy is resumed following surgery.