Tennis Elbow. Runner’s Knee. Golfer’s Elbow



Tennis Elbow.  Runner’s Knee.  Golfer’s Elbow… So many injuries are caused by sport.  Not Rugby Balls, though, fortunately – that sounds like it’d be agony! But what are the most common injuries – and how do you avoid them? Here’s our list of five common issues…

Pulled Muscles
You can pull almost any muscle in the body – but some are more easily pulled than others. Gentle stretching before and after exercise is the best way to prevent a muscle pull but if you do strain yourself, here’s what to do:

First, apply ice to the injury as soon as possible, and rest the area. Uncomfortable though it is, the ice helps relax the injured muscle, so keep icing it – 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, as often as possible for about three hours. You must rest it completely until the pain stops and the inevitable swelling goes down – this might take a few days. Be sure not to burn your skin while icing: take a look at our advice on that here.

Eventually, the pain should subside sufficiently to allow you to start stretching the muscle so that the muscle doesn’t heal in a shortened condition – but be gentle! You don’t want to cause it to spasm through over stretching. When it feels like you’re able to stretch the injured muscle in the same way as you stretch the uninjured one, you’re probably back to health.

Lower-Back Strain
There aren’t many sports that leave the lower back alone! Whether it’s from twisting awkwardly in golf, from lifting a weight, or from forcibly serving a tennis ball, strain in the lower-back seems inevitable. But why is that? In short, it’s because our backs really aren’t designed to take all those sudden, frequent and repeated motions particularly if they predominantly affect one side of the body.

Treating Lower-Back Strain
There’s good news and bad news here! The good news is that, as we say in this Info Sheet, most of the aches and pains one picks up in the lower back do tend to go away on their own – given time. After 10-15 days, the issue should begin to abate, so first and foremost this type of injury needs rest…

The bad news is that – in the meantime – the pain can often be excruciating! If that’s the case, you’ll almost certainly need to take painkillers or use some sort of anti-inflammatory treatment. That being the case, you must be very careful not to aggravate your back injury by taking painkillers and then moving about under the illusion that the pain has gone when it hasn’t!

In any case, we strongly recommend dropping in to see us at the clinic if you’re in great discomfort, but those that want to soldier on might appreciate more guidance! Treatments that can help include icing and heating the area, and deep-but-gentle massage with the fingers… See our advice on icing here and on getting the most from your massage here.

While resting the lower back is good, there is an unfortunate double-edge to this particular sword: too much rest could make it worse! At some point, as the pain lessens, you’ll need to start exercising the area, and the surrounding muscles, not only to help the healing but also reduce the chance of a recurrence.

Runner’s Knee
Although not exclusively the burden of a runner, Runner’s Knee is the name understandably given to the overwhelming pronunciation challenge that is ‘chondromalacia patella’. Whatever one calls it, it’s an extremely common injury that sees a misalignment of the kneecap in its groove. We’re wincing just writing about it!

See, whenever you bend or straighten the knee joint, your patella – or kneecap – is designed to move up and down inside a groove. If the kneecap is incorrectly aligned, though, it sometimes pulls off to the side and starts wearing away the cartilage both in the groove itself and on the rear of the kneecap. Even worse, the knee sometimes swells as fluid builds up around the injury. Nasty!

Treating Runner’s Knee
All things being equal, your kneecaps should be held in their grooves by muscles – the quadriceps – that hook into them… And as is often the case, prevention is better than cure! Running on softer surfaces can help and it’s wise to make sure you have the best possible cushioning or orthotics for your feet and running style. Also, be sure to build strength in your quadriceps, and stretch your hamstrings and calves to help prevent overpronation.

If you do develop pain, though, immediately reduce the amount you run. Be sure to visit us, or your doctor, to confirm that you are indeed suffering from Runner’s Knee. Avoid activity that stresses the knee through bending… Other treatments include strengthening the quadriceps using exercises that change neither the joint angle nor muscle length during contraction. These exercises are known as ‘Isometrics’. You can also try gently massaging the centre of your quadriceps, using downward strokes, from your upper thigh down toward the knee. If it’s safe for you to take, aspirin might reduce some inflammation of the knee’s cartilage.

Tennis Elbow / Golfer’s Elbow
These are pretty much the same issue – just in slightly different parts of your elbow. The muscles of your forearm become inflamed, as does the tendon connecting the muscles to the elbow bones. They might also tear.

Treating Tennis Elbow
Would it be too trite to also start this paragraph by saying, "Prevention is better that cure?" If not, it is! In tennis, positioning your feet in such a way as to ensure that all of your weight is behind the ball when you hit it helps reduce the stress on your elbow.

With golf, it’s quite commonly the non-dominant arm that suffers as it pulls the club through the swing. Very often, taking lessons to improve you game helps avoid the issue in the first place – so now you have medical grounds to spend time with a professional! You might also consider the simple exercise of repeatedly squeezing a stress toy, or a soft-rubber ball, to build strength in the muscles.

If you’re already suffering from one of these injuries, though, you’ll be pleased to hear that both golfer’s and tennis elbow tend to heal fairly quickly on their own. As often is the case with strains and sprains, icing the area is helpful. Be careful to use ice treatments correctly, though – see our advice above and here.

Painkillers may be the best thing to deal with any discomfort while you’re resting your arm. Be sure it’s safe to do so and, as always, think of aspirin and the like as short-term treatments. Keep in mind, too, that physiotherapy may help speed recovery and, indeed, prevent it occurring!