Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, can be an extremely frustrating and painful condition that impacts the extensor tendon within the elbow.
When these vulnerable tendons become overloaded and overworked, the unfortunate individual can experience elbow pain and tenderness on the outside of their elbow.
In many cases, the tennis elbow pain sensation will travel down the arm and become more pronounced when gripping or grabbing objects.
Can you do tests at home to figure out if you have tennis elbow? You can.
Let’s dive into what it is and then explain the tests you can do from the comfort of your home.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Despite the name, tennis elbow is not just limited to tennis players.
Essentially, any repetitive movement of the arm that puts significant stress on the elbow joint and wrist can increase your likelihood of developing tennis elbow.
Golfers, weight lifters, swimmers, and baseball players are all at risk of developing tennis elbow.
The unfortunate truth is the repetitive back-and-forth nature of swinging a tennis racket is the exact type of physical movement that can lead to tennis elbow – hence the name.
While age and genetic factors can contribute to your likelihood of developing the condition, playing tennis regularly, especially with improper form, can significantly increase the chances you will develop it.
What Can You Do About Tennis Elbow?
While there is currently no miracle cure for a tennis elbow, there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of developing the condition.
There are also some actions you can take to manage some of the pain associated with tennis elbow.
For starters, you should take the time to properly warm-up before you play tennis.
Stretching and getting the blood flowing to your arms is one of the most effective ways to prevent tennis elbow, as well as other tennis-related injuries.
Medical News Today, which is a free-access digital health journal, offers this helpful list of Eight Exercises for Tennis Elbow.
These exercises will help you strengthen the muscles in the forearm, which can help prevent the recurrence of tennis elbow and even help you manage pain associated with the condition.
Use Proper Technique
Practicing proper form will also go a long way towards preventing tennis elbow.
Even if you have been playing tennis for some time, take a lesson to make sure you are practicing proper technique.
The way you hold your racket can lead to serious issues down the line.
No matter how old you are, consider taking breaks between matches to allow your muscles and tendons to recover.
The more often you play, the higher your chances are of developing symptoms related to tennis elbow or developing chronic tennis elbow.
Taking breaks and knowing when to call it a day can pay off down the line. You must manage your playing time if you engage in other activities outside of tennis that could put you at risk of developing tennis elbow.
Any activity that involves repeatedly straining your arm muscles and tendons will increase your risk.
If you have an occupation or hobby that involves repetitive motions of the wrist and arm, you should take the necessary precautions.
If you just finished painting the house, consider taking a day or two off before heading to the tennis court.
Consider Using a Brace
Tennis elbow braces and compression sleeves help those suffering from tennis elbow. We’ve got an entire article comparing braces on the market. Check it out!
Not only can a high-quality tennis elbow brace help you manage and play through the pain associated with the condition, wearing a brace can even prevent and reduce the severity of future flare-ups.
Know How to Diagnose the Condition
If you’ve been diagnosed with tennis elbow and are suffering from pain, begin taking doctor-recommended medication. You could also consider investing in a brace.
The following tests help you determine if you have tennis elbow or just a simple case of muscle fatigue.
If you have completed any of the tests and believe you are suffering from tennis elbow, make an appointment to see a doctor.
Tennis Elbow Tests
If you feel your elbow, you will notice a bony bump. This bump is known as the lateral epicondyle.
If you experience any pain, tenderness, or discomfort in that region as you perform any of the following tests, there is a good chance you could be suffering from tennis elbow.
Perform each of the following tests on both arms, which will help you determine if there is a difference.
1. The Squeeze Test
- Grab an object that is moderately heavy for you to hold onto with one hand (carton of juice or heavy water bottle).
- Hold it straight in front of you and squeeze with mild force.
- If you experience sharp pain that is localized in the elbow, you could have a case of tennis elbow.
2. The Localized Test
- Sit with your forearm extended outwards on a flat surface, like a kitchen counter.
- Apply gentle pressure to the elbow of the extended arm.
- If this mild pressure results in a sensation of pain or tenderness, it could be a sign of tennis elbow. Also, be sure to check the area for swelling by comparing it to the opposite elbow.
Advanced Tennis Elbow Test
The following test is usually performed by a doctor when checking for tennis elbow:
1. The Mill’s Test
- Take a seat and extend the suspected arm outwards while keeping it straight
- The doctor will flex the wrist forwards
- With the arm extended and the wrist bent, the doctor will rotate the forearm inwards and examine the lateral epicondyle for evidence of tennis elbow. They will also ask you to report any pain the movement caused
Physiopedia, which is a reputable online resource for physiotherapy-related information, offers this more detailed Explanation of The Mill’s Test.
For a basic demonstration of how the test is performed, Clinical Examination Videos offers the following.
To learn more about the differences between tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, check out our post where we discuss them. Most people assume any elbow pain is tennis elbow, but it may be a different form of elbow pain.