Tennis: Great for Your Body, Tough on Your Joints
This great game will keep you in shape but may lead to chronic joint pain
Ask any tennis fan, and they will tell you the sport is a great way to stay in shape, even as you age. All the running, swinging, and quick, lateral movements, up, back and across the court, keeps your heart pumping and body strong and limber. Unfortunately, the same movements that make tennis a great way to stay in shape can be very hard on your joints, especially the elbows and knees.
In this article, we will look at how tennis causes joint pain and stress, as well as what you can do to protect your joints and keep minor strains from becoming major pains. We will also look at treatments for those who are already dealing with tennis-related joint pain.
The Truth about “Tennis Elbow”
“Lateral Epicondylitis,” the condition known commonly as “tennis elbow,” is the most familiar tennis-related cause of pain. While you don’t have to play tennis to develop this injury, the movements necessary to strike and direct the ball are notorious for leading to this injury.
Regardless of how you develop tennis elbow, the pain can be frequent and intense. In most cases, that pain is located on the outside of the arm, at the point where the forearm meets the elbow joint. Often, the pain begins in the tendons of the forearm, where muscles connect to your arm bones.
In tennis, these tendons control and direct the position of the racquet and the strength of the swing. As you play, one of the muscles involved in your swing, the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB), can develop small tears. However, any kind of similar repetitive motion can cause a similar condition. No matter how the damage is caused, these tears can lead to inflammation, which adds additional stress to your arm, making it difficult to grip things or even extend your arm.
In some cases, this type of strain will heal on its own, given time and rest. However, if left untreated, or if you try to “play through the pain,” the injury can worsen, leading to chronic pain. Eventually, it can become difficult to grip or lift anything, and the progressive joint damage may force you to give up tennis altogether.
How Tennis Causes Knee Pain
As with tennis elbow, repetitive stress is often the culprit when it comes to knee pain caused by tennis. The repetitive, forceful motions caused by pushing off to serve and volley can lead to a form of repetitive stress injury called Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. This anterior knee pain is common in tennis players, because the pressure of stopping and starting rapidly can cause the patella (kneecap) to scrape against the femur (upper leg bone).
And this is just one of the common ways tennis can take a toll on your knees. Another common injury related to tennis is Patellar Tendinopathy (Jumper’s Knee), which is the result of overuse of the patellar tendon. This tendon connects the kneecap to the tibia (shinbone). Patellar Tendinopathy pain is caused by microscopic tears in that tendon. These tears are caused by muscle contractions that allow you to jump, sprint or change direction on the court, including quick lateral movements to chase down shots.
If you are feeling pain, stiffness or weakening in your knee joint, get off that leg and rest the joint. Cold packs may help to reduce inflammation and applying heat may help increase blood flow to reduce pain.
Stretching before matches, exercises that strengthen leg muscles, and working with a coach to practice proper form and footwork can reduce your chances of joint injury. But even with these precautions, tennis will not always be pain-free. The bones and soft tissue in your elbow, knee and shoulder joints are highly susceptible to repetitive stress injury, and tennis increases both the risks of injury and the stress on the joint that causes damage over time.
Tennis and Shoulder Pain
Another common consequence of the repetitive stress related to tennis is damage to your Rotator Cuff. The Rotator Cuff is the collective description of the four muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. This group of muscles and tendons holds the bones of the shoulder in place while allowing the joint to function properly. The action and force of the tennis swings puts stress and pressure on the shoulder joint, which can lead to degenerative joint disease such as Osteoarthritis as well as injury to the Rotator Cuff.
Treating Tennis Related Joint Pain
In addition to resting the joint, minor aches and joint pain can be treated with physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medication or steroid injections. As the condition progresses, further treatment may be necessary.
For cases in which trauma or wear and tear has limited joint function or is causing chronic pain, some doctors may recommend surgery. For more advanced cases, full joint replacement may be suggested. While more invasive procedures come with increased risk, all surgical procedures do carry some risks including but not limited to adverse reactions to anesthesia, blood clots and infection.
Fortunately, even if you have been told you “need” joint replacement surgery, that may not be your only option.
A Proven Option to Treat Tennis Related Joint Pain
Over the past decade, patients suffering from elbow and knee pain have experienced dramatically reduced pain and inflammation thanks to SCT – Regenerative Medicine.
Our SC treatment is successful in treating many different joint conditions caused by injury or repetitive stress because the treatment uses your body’s own healing properties to repair damaged cells and generate new cells in the damaged joint.
Better still, SC Therapy is a minimally-invasive, outpatient treatment option. In most cases, you will be able to return to your normal routine in a few days. Meanwhile, the cells continue to do their healing work. That means, in most cases, pain associated with joint injury or disease will continue to decrease while flexibility and joint function will steadily increase.
So, if joint pain is keeping you from playing tennis, or from any other activities you enjoy, you owe it to yourself to learn if SCT – Regenerative Medicine is the right solution to get you back on the court and back to enjoying life.