How can you prevent Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and Golfer's Elbow (medial epicondylitis)?
This has to be the most commonly asked question (after how do I FIX tennis elbow or golfer's elbow!). It's wonderful when people are considering prevention instead of a cure. It's WAY easier to prevent problems like these, than to resolve them once they are already there. (If you are looking to heal tennis elbow - click here for a PDF guide.)
In order to PREVENT an issue, we first need to know what CAUSES that issue. I'm going to refer just to tennis elbow throughout this article, but please interchange golfer's elbow as the exact same issues arise in the exact same way.
The main reason people get tennis elbow is overuse. Maybe they went from playing tennis once a week, to every day because they were on vacation. Or maybe someone switched to working from home, and instead of the great ergonomic set up they had in the office, they are now perching their laptop on the kitchen table and sitting on a hard kitchen chair for 8 hours a day. Or maybe they are landscaping the garden, painting a fence, laying a patio or pulling weeds for hours. It can be as simple as cleaning the house for the holidays. I've heard all these causes and more!
The big problem with tennis elbow is that when it first starts, you don't feel it at all. Read that again! It was very likely bubbling along WELL before you ever felt anything in your elbow! How can that be? Well, if you have more stress or strain going through the tissues, they will do their very best to tolerate it. But, if this unaccustomed stress or strain starts lasting a LONG time, then the tissues cannot tolerate it and they start to complain!
Pain is your body's way of telling you that you are doing something that it doesn't like and please STOP!
Now, a total rest from all activities is never needed, but guidance regarding doing the "right" things opposed to irritating things will cut your healing time exponentially!
So, how do we prevent getting to this point in the first place?
Build yourself up slowly when doing an unaccustomed activity.
Always listen to your body - it may be giving you warning signs - don't ignore them.
Warm up - heating the tissues will decrease muscle tension. The reason that unaccustomed activities lead to overuse issues like tennis elbow, is that the muscle tension increases WAY more than normal. That increased muscle tension, tugs at the tendon, the tendon struggles to tolerate the extra load and breaks down. Heat, or warming up, prevents this issue.
STRETCH! Stretching brings muscle tension down. Click here to access the 2 stretches that can prevent tennis elbow and golfer's elbow.
So, there you have it! 4 simple strategies that can prevent tennis elbow and golfer's elbow. Obviously, these principles will work for any area of the body.