Hey there, Racquetball Family! My name is Dr. Brendan Giljum, and I am a chiropractic physician from St. Louis, Missouri. I’m also an avid racquetball player. I am humbled that USA Racquetball asked me to help break down some basic concerns and issues that we as racquetball players have as a new and recurring feature of Serving Up the News. As you read my insights, if you ever have any questions, or have a topic you would like to see going forward, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me (email@example.com) or to USA Racquetball (firstname.lastname@example.org). I look forward to sharing some helpful tips and tricks with you all going forward.
Recently in a racquetball group on Facebook, I saw a topic arise about Tennis (Racquetball) Elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, and what to do about it. This is something that many racquetball players have experienced at some point in their careers and can be very annoying, uncomfortable, and lingering. I personally have been victim to “Racquetball Elbow” back when I was playing almost every day in college. I hope to give you some understanding of what this condition is, how to prevent it, and how to treat it with self-care.
Most of the muscles that extend your wrist are attached to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow called the lateral epicondyle. Sometimes, through injury or overuse, the site where these muscles insert can become irritated or inflamed. This is called lateral epicondylitis, or “Tennis (Racquetball) Elbow.” Activities involving repetitive wrist extension are a common cause of this condition, e.g., racquetball, typing, carpentry, or lifting objects with your palm facing down. This condition is 3 times more likely to strike your dominant arm. Pain will often begin as an intermittent or gradual discomfort during activity such as shaking hands or holding a coffee cup and may progress to mild or severe pain that radiates into the forearm.
Without any intervention, “tennis elbow” usually lingers, which is why it is so important to recognize and treat. The first step is to modify or eliminate activities that cause symptoms. This means potentially improving your racquetball form so your swinging mechanics are less bothersome to your elbow integrity as well as taking some time off to allow for rest and recovery. Avoid sleeping with your elbow compressed beneath your pillow. Avoid lifting heavy objects with your palm facing down. Consider changing to a lighter racquet or smaller handle. A “counter-force” or “cross-friction” brace may be beneficial for your elbow. Sports creams and home ice massage may provide relief as well. Most importantly, be patient with your recovery!
Here are some at-home exercises that my patients have found beneficial.
- Wrist Extensor Stretches -- Performed by flexing your wrist, making your palm face upwards. Place your hand and wrist flat on a table or chair and gently lean your shoulder over the top of your hand until you feel a stretch. Against table resistance, attempt to extend your wrist for 5-7 seconds.
- Wrist Supination/Pronation -- Start with your elbow flexed at your side and arm in front of you. Hold a weight or stick and rotate your hand from palm up to palm down.
- Eccentric Wrist Extensors -- Performed seated with your forearm on an armrest with your hand off the edge, palm down. Begin with your hand in an extended/up position. Grab a weight with your hand and slowly lower the weight. Release the weight and use your healthy arm to reset to the starting position.
- Tyler Twist -- Look up a video on YouTube for this move. It is fantastic for long term tennis elbow recovery. You may use a towel in the place of a “Therabar” or any other tool.
I hope you found this information helpful! Look for my articles in future issues of Serving Up the News, and for more information on how to take control of your health, follow me on all social media @giljumchiro.
Make sure to rest appropriately in between repetitions of these exercises. This article is for informational purposes only. This information does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions regarding your condition or are experiencing pain, always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health professional. Developments in medical research may impact this information. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.