You can’t keep icing and taking days off thinking the pickleball (tennis) elbow will magically disappear. Oh, was I too straightforward? Well, I needed to be. Pickleball elbow seems a minor pain that should go away quickly but wrong mechanics, relying on resting and icing, and using heavier gears won’t help your elbow stay happy and healthy.
The problem is, pickleball elbow isn’t only a minor pain. In fact, when gathering my research on pickleball elbow, I came across so many players that don’t even know what pickleball elbow actually is. It was enough to trigger my inner pickleball teacher to guide you on the topic, explain what consequences pickleball elbow has, how to prevent and cure it, and get to know if you already have any symptoms of it.
During my research, I came across one of the best pickleball paddles for tennis elbow. These are ProKennex Pro Flight and ProKennex Speed II. First, get your hands on the right pickleball paddle, and then begin reading.
Beware, a pickleball elbow may lead to an elbow injury and as well, a broken nerve. So, the soon you see a doctor, the better for your betterment.
What is Pickleball Elbow or Tennis Elbow?
When your elbow tendons are inflamed and there’s a severe ache in the elbow area–that’s pickleball elbow. In simpler terms, the pain around the elbow is called pickleball/tennis elbow. The term is used interchangeably with Tennis elbow. In medical terms, it’s called lateral epicondylitis or lateral epicondylopathy.
What Causes Pickleball Elbow?
Pickleball elbow is caused when the muscles around your wrist and elbow are in excessive motion. In pickleball, it’s called pickleball elbow because players constantly use their muscles attached to the wrist and elbow to swing the paddle which results in strain and inflammation. Tennis elbow and golf elbow are the same things, but the name limits them to their sports only. In general, anyone can have a similar injury whose work/activity has a lot of wrist motion and lifting/swinging objects up.
Here are the common causes that lead players to develop a pickleball elbow:
When the ball contacts the paddle in a paddle, it creates vibration. The amount of vibration can vary depending on the core thickness, shock absorbance, and intensity of the ball striking the paddle. Normally, players opt for a thicker core because it creates power and helps them play volleys aggressively. The thicker core doesn’t absorb the shock and vibration and thus it passes to your wrist through the handle. This vibration targets your bony knob and causes inflammation.
Wrong motions and excessive pressure on the wrist:
Pickleball is addictive and players can’t stop themselves from swinging the paddle for the drives and backhand shots. Little do they know this is the biggest enemy. I’m not saying the swing and backhand shots are bad–but the mechanic’s new players (without a coach) have developed. Swing and backhand are tough shots and a slightly wrong move can make your arm ache for weeks.
Using the wrong grip size and type:
This is the most legit reason for a pickleball elbow. Poor grip size even cause shoulder strain because your entire hand gets uncomfortable. A grip size that’s too loose or too tight for your hand with poor quality wrapping will definitely play its role to harm your wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Using heavy paddles and balls:
Are you the player who used lead to increase the paddle weight? No, I’m not attacking you, but here’s a warning for you. That heavy paddle, for extended hours with aggressive shots, can be a serious bummer for your elbow. Heavyweight cause strain on your wrist that may travel through your elbow and your entire arm suffer from burning pain.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow:
The most obvious symptom of a tennis elbow is the pain around the elbow. You’ll feel soreness and inflammation scattering all over from wrist to shoulder. Sometimes, the symptoms aren’t too obvious and you may not even notice it until it gets severe. For a quick self-examination, test the following.
- Bend your arm from the elbow.
- Lift your elbow up with something around half a kg in your hand.
- Hold objects, i.e., water bottle, phone, and any tiny objects.
- Open a jar or door that involves turning your hand.
Can you do all of this without any stretching and strain? If the answer is no, it’s a clear sign, a doctor’s appointment is anytime soon.
If you’re feeling pain in your elbow, don’t just wait and wish it to disappear magically. Because it won’t. Set up your appointment with the doctor immediately and consult your issue with him. Sports injuries aren’t similar to cuts and stitches you get out of cooking and regular chores. You must see a doctor on a priority basis. Otherwise, it’ll get worse.
How to Prevent Pickleball Tennis Elbow:
All the pain, strain, burning, inflammation…wait…there’s still a way out! You can prevent pickleball elbow in so many ways without altering your natural game. Follow 6 of these steps and get yourself several miles away from pickleball/tennis elbow.
Use a lightweight paddle with a large sweet spot:
First, check your gears. Are they heavy or vibrate when you play with them? The positivity in your answer is a red flag that alarms “CHANGE YOUR PADDLE RIGHT AWAY”. To keep your elbow and wrist happy, you need a lightweight pickleball paddle that absorbs shock and vibration effectively. Paddles with Kinetic Energy are the best for tennis elbow, such as the paddles of ProKennex. Lightweight doesn’t mean too light because that’ll be easy on your hand but won’t be good for resisting vibrations. In addition, your pickleball balls must be lightweight to stabilize the striking intensity.
Use braces/Splint and avoid repeating motions:
Braces and splints are specially designed for players with elbow and arm aches. You can consult a doctor or GP about what brace is the right fit for you. Otherwise, you can search on the market which are the best pickleball elbow braces for tennis elbow and strain. Also, don’t repeat motions and movements all over. People usually do this in dink rallies when they’re making the arc a little sharp.
Pickleball exercises not only safeguards your elbow but your entire body from strain, aches, and injuries. Before the game, set aside 30 minutes for a dynamic exercise. The coaches, physiotherapists, or PT people usually assign specialized rehab exercises to the players. These exercises best prevent you from pickleball elbow and other injuries.
Fixing your backhand and swing mechanics:
Only if you fix your mechanics, you can play for extended hours without any injury and burning pain around your elbow. Although pickleball has an easier set of motions and flexible shots, some shots are a bit tactic and the players even make them worse for their bodies. Two of them include backhand motion and swing mechanism. When trying these two, don’t put all the pressure on the wrist because the tendons around your wrist are attached to your elbow and shoulders.
Don’t make a bigger backswing and avoid swinging your wrist instead of your shoulder. The swing should come straight from the shoulder to keep your arm from an awkward twist that affects tendons and muscles. Also, have a loose grip on your paddle. Don’t hold the paddle too tightly.
Choose the right grip size:
When buying a paddle, check the grip size very carefully. You need the paddle handle that fixes in your hand perfectly. It shouldn’t be too thin that your fingers are overlapping or too big that there’s space left. The muscles and tendons get strained when irregular movements and pressure come through the handle. In addition, the handles should have a soft and contour-shaped wrapping so your hold over the paddle is tacky and comfortable.
Build strength and flexibility:
Usually, the pain makes its home in the muscles that are weak. You must have seen athletes have a special diet that makes them stronger, besides their tough exercise schedule. Pickleball isn’t that pressing, but still, you need to work on your diet to build your muscles that can take the strain and pain. Also, stretching is a must. It’s also called pickleball cooldown exercises that make your muscles flexible.
How to cure pickleball elbow:
In most cases, pickleball elbow can be treated with self-treatment because 1. Pickleball naturally won’t ask much effort and 2. Pickleball elbow strain and aches are minor and a little care and prevention can help you stay fit. However, the problem arises when the pain is getting constant and you’re still on the first step of your treatment. Speaking of which, here are the 5 step-by-step pickleball treatments steps you can follow to cure it.
Note: It’s not necessary to follow through with all of these. You may continue a certain step for a day, and if the pain continues, then move to the next step.
If your elbow is hurting, stop playing and take some rest. A few hours of not using any elbow motion will heal it automatically. However, this will only help if you’re a healthy player and don’t naturally have any previous elbow injuries.
After playing, take some ice, put them in a towel, and massage it around your elbow for 20 minutes every 4-hour interval.
Exercise and Dry needling:
In the third step, the physiotherapist will be involved and massage your trigger point or do dry needling to relieve you from inflammation and burning pain. In the majority of cases, the most severe injuries have healed at this stage.
A pain reliever or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine can be your third option if the pain isn’t going away after coming and exercising.
Well, try that your situation doesn’t reach the surgery stage. But in case, the pain and inflammation aren’t going away at all–chances are, you’ve broken your nerve and now you’ve to undergo surgery to get your elbow fixed.
Keep your elbow happy and healthy!
Don’t let the inflamed and painful elbow keep you away from your favorite sports and simultaneously bring an unnecessary break from your regular work. Now you know what exactly pickleball elbow is, examine yourself for any symptoms and follow the prevention guide. Although pickleball is a family-friendly sport, it’s still a racket sport after all, and you need to be careful. Just have the right gear, wear a pickleball elbow bear (if your condition is severe), and get a coach/friend to fix your mechanics. Hope you have changed your mind if you ever thought of giving up on pickleball! Don’t have a friend or couch? Reach out through the comments and let me be your guide!
For the time being, have a safe and healthy play ahead. Good luck!
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