Shelby physical therapists break down some common tennis injuries and how they can be prevented

If your idea of exercise is grabbing your set of racquets and heading to the nearest court, you’re probably glad it’s spring and you can actually play tennis outside once again. Tennis is a great form of physical activity that works out many parts of the body, but unfortunately, just like any sport it can also lead to injury.

Tennis can be played on a variety of surfaces like clay, grass, and hard court, and it requires lots of speed, power, balance and coordination in order to play properly. As a result of these factors and the general repetitive nature of tennis, a number of injuries to the elbow, wrist, knees, ankles and spine can occur. The majority of tennis injuries—about 67%—are overuse injuries. This means they come about after performing the same motion repeatedly over time, while traumatic injuries are the result of a single incident and account for the other 33%.

One of the most well-known tennis injuries is lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, which is an overuse injury of the muscles that help wrist extend. Other common injuries to the upper limbs include rotator cuff tendinitis and wrist strains, which usually occur due to the high velocity of the tennis ball and the repetitive arm motions in tennis.

Injuries to the lower limbs are also very common in tennis and are caused by the sprinting, stopping, pivoting and pounding nature of the sport. These include ankle sprains, knee pain, Achilles tendinitis and tennis toe. Due to the all the rotating of the torso in tennis, back pain and injuries may also come about in some players.

Since most of these injuries are due to overuse, it should be refreshing to know that in many cases, they can be minimized or even prevented with proper conditioning and techniques that will also improve your game. We recommend the following:

  • Always warm up and stretch before playing, and cool down afterwards
  • Be sure you’re using proper footwear and equipment; most tennis shoes are more robust than running shoes due to their multi-directional purposes
  • Maintain adequate fitness and flexibility levels with conditioning exercises that are specific to the physical demands of tennis
  • Perform strengthening exercises, especially for your arms and core muscles, to prevent overuse injuries that occur from weakened muscles
  • Avoid over-repetition of any one type of shot; instead, practice a range of strokes
  • Have an expert evaluate your gameplay to ensure your techniques are being executed correctly, and focus on improving areas that need work
  • Incorporate some non-tennis cross-training into your exercise routine

If tennis is your favorite warm-weather hobby, then you certainly don’t want to be derailed by an injury at any point over the next few months of spring and summer. For more guidance with conditioning and strengthening exercises that will prevent injury, our Kings Mountain and Shelby physical therapists at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates & Prescription Fitness can help. Call us at 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Physical therapists in Shelby from Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates break down the difference between using ice and heat for pain

Ice and heat have both been used as an easy home remedy to relieve pain for ages. Due to their availability and effectiveness for reducing mild to moderate pain in most cases, they are often recommended to patients with a variety of painful disorders. But sadly some patients aren’t exactly sure when to use ice and when to use heat, and as a result, confusion may get the best of them.

Patients commonly ask us whether it’s better to use ice (cryotherapy) or heat (thermotherapy) to help reduce their pain. To understand which option is best in each case, we first need to explain what actually happens to the body during an injury.

When an injury occurs—let’s use an ankle sprain for this example—the soft tissue in the ankle becomes damaged and tiny blood vessels (capillaries) are broken. This leads to blood leaking into nearby tissues, and the excess blood eventually causes the main signs of inflammation in the ankle: swelling, redness, heat, pain and tenderness. Pain can also persist after inflammation reduces and can occur from other causes as well, and each of these situations requires a different approach.

To help you determine whether to use ice or heat for your pain, physical therapists in Shelby have broken down the specifics of what you need to know about each one:

Ice: applying ice constricts (shrinks) blood vessels, which numbs pain, relieves inflammation and limits bruising

  • Ice should primarily be used for injuries or any other time there’s inflammation, as it will help to prevent further leakage of blood
  • This includes strains, sprains and any other injuries that are less than six weeks old (acute), as well as gout flare-ups
  • Best to use with the RICE protocol: Rest- minimize movement of the injured body part; Ice- apply ice for 15-20 minutes, 4-6 times a day for the first 48 hours; Compression- apply light pressure to the affected body part; Elevation- raise body part to reduce pressure from blood and tissue
  • Always cover the ice and use ice packs, frozen food or gel packs

Heat: increases blood flow, which relaxes tight muscles and relieves aching joints

  • Use heat for pain lasting longer than six weeks (chronic) or sore joints, including conditions like arthritis and back or neck pain
  • Do not use for acute injuries, which can make it worse, or if you have diabetes or peripheral vascular disease
  • Warm should be the goal of heat therapy, not hot; try using heating pads, heating wraps, steamed towels, warm baths and paraffin wax (use caution)
  • Apply for 15-20 min. (or longer if advised) 3x/day for suggested duration

Also keep in mind that headaches are one exception that both ice and heat can help treat in different ways. If you’re still not certain whether ice or heat is best for your pain, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, with two locations in Shelby and Kings Mountain, NC, is happy to help you out. Call us at 704-471-0001 for more information on ice and heat or to schedule an appointment.