If you are an avid pickleball player, then you may be wondering if it is ok to keep playing with a tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is a condition where the muscles of the forearm become inflamed due to repetitive motions involving flexion and extension of the wrist.
The pain can cause someone to experience difficulty gripping anything or even lifting their arm up high enough for a serve in pickleball.
This article will discuss what causes tennis elbow, what treatments are available, and whether or not it’s safe to play with this injury.
In This Post
- What causes tennis elbow?
- What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
- What can you do about it?
- Can you play pickleball with tennis elbow?
- Is a heavier pickleball paddle better for tennis elbow?
- Is there anything else I should know about playing pickleball with tennis elbow?
- What happens if you ignore tennis elbow?
- How can I prevent tennis elbow?
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is caused by the overuse of muscles in the forearm, most notably those that flex and extend your wrist.
These are called the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle and its tendon; as well as pronator teres muscle which comes from under your shoulder blade to bend your arm at the elbow.
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
If you have this condition, then you may feel pain on your outer upper arm or side that can be so severe it makes it difficult to sleep at night. There is often tenderness in this area along with stiffness and weakness when trying to bend your wrist up towards your shoulder. You might also notice that your forearm is tender to the touch.
What can you do about it?
There are several ways to help alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by tennis elbow without having to stop playing pickleball altogether:
- Rest: Reduce or take a break from any activity that causes pain in your arm such as using tools, opening jars, or playing pickleball.
- Ice: Apply ice to the painful area for 20 minutes, three times per day or as directed by your doctor. You can do this with an ice pack you buy at pharmacies or grocery stores, a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, or even just some bags of frozen corn.
- Massage: Put your forearm on a table and use your other hand to gently massage the area.
- Exercises: There are also exercises that can help strengthen and stretch out muscles in your forearms like yoga poses or using resistance bands. Try doing these once every hour, especially during pickleball matches when you’re not playing at full intensity.
- Medication: Your doctor may prescribe medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin to take for pain and swelling.
Can you play pickleball with tennis elbow?
If the thought of not being able to play pickleball at all is too much, then there are ways you can continue playing even if it hurts a little bit.
Play at a low intensity:
This will mean limiting your competitive matches to doubles and using a smaller paddle. If you use a larger paddle, then it puts more strain on the muscles in your forearm that can lead to injury. You should also avoid playing for too long or when you’re tired since this makes the risk of an overuse injury more likely.
Be careful with the serve:
You should definitely avoid using your wrist muscles to hit a strong pickleball serve since this will put too much stress on them and cause even more pain. Instead, try serving overhand or side-arm where you can use your whole arm instead of just one muscle group in particular. Use a lightweight ball that won’t hurt as much when it makes contact with your paddle.
Take a break:
If you’re too sore to play a match, then take some time off until the pain goes away so you don’t risk causing even more damage. It’s better to miss out on one or two pickleball games than have to stop playing altogether.
Is a heavier pickleball paddle better for tennis elbow?
A heavier pickleball paddle can help alleviate the pain of playing with tennis elbow by putting less strain on your forearm muscles.
The downside is that it can be more difficult to return shots with a heavier paddle, so you may have trouble winning games. It all comes down to your preference and how much pain you’re willing to put up with when playing pickleball.
Is there anything else I should know about playing pickleball with tennis elbow?
Your doctor or physical therapist can show you some other exercises to help strengthen the muscles in your forearm and prevent tennis elbow from coming back.
You should also stretch before play and avoid using a computer mouse or playing video games for long periods since these activities put stress on those same muscle groups used when playing pickleball.
What happens if you ignore tennis elbow?
If you don’t rest the muscles in your forearm or try to deal with it on your own, then you run the risk of further injuring them and making the tennis elbow even worse.
This could potentially mean having to take time off from work if it becomes so bad that you can’t perform simple tasks like typing or playing pickleball. You might also need surgery if the only other option is to have a cast on your arm.
How can I prevent tennis elbow?
You should try to avoid playing pickleball if it feels like you’re straining your forearm muscles.
If that’s not possible and the pain is too much, then take a break until the muscles recover before continuing with play.
You should also stretch your arms and forearms before beginning any pickleball match or practice session to ensure they are properly warmed up and ready to go.