‘Tennis Elbow’ is a fairly common injury that ironically happens much more often when we start renovating than when we play tennis (Perhaps the Federers and Nadals of the world are more at risk).
We often wait until Spring to begin painting or building projects or just that general cleaning up in the house or garden. We approach these projects with a certain amount of gusto to get the thing done, and before you know it, your elbow starts hurting.
Tennis Elbow is typically felt in the region of the funny bone when lifting and carrying, or rotating the forearm. The injury itself happens when there has been a spike in activity that involves the hand; there is a breakdown in the integrity of the tendons which attach at this bony point, causing pain.
To help avoid getting Tennis Elbow while renovating there a couple of things to keep in mind. As much as you are able to, work with your wrist in its neutral position. A neutral wrist is actually cocked back just slightly. Avoid letting your wrist flex forward, (for example while holding paint pots, or painting). A forward flexed wrist puts much more strain on the muscle-tendon unit, and after heavy use, increases the risk of developing tennis elbow.
Work close to the object – if you frequently have to reach out to paint or trim or lift during the hours you work, the load on the forearm muscles is magnified, again risking tendon breakdown. Get used to analysing the task and start moving your body to the task, instead of stretching your arm out to it.
Stop for rests. Repetitive tasks that we are not used to pose the greatest problems just because they are well, repetitive. Think of the action required to use a screwdriver, trigger handle weed sprayers or secateurs. Because they are moving through the same motion, the forearm muscles fatigue, tension builds up, and the elbow can get sore.
So next time – when you’re putting a cabinet together with a screwdriver, or pruning the hedge – stop for a rest. It can also help to massage the outer fleshy part of the forearm, but don’t get too enthusiastic about stretching. Research is showing that stretching tendon injuries can exacerbate the problem.
Tendon injuries are really common problems, whether they be in the elbow, hip or shoulder. So if you develop Tennis Elbow this spring, come in and have a chat to a friendly physiotherapist.