Treating Tennis Injuries and Tendinopathy:
Advice From an Expert
By: Lisa Chase, PT, OMPT
Tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis and rotator cuff tendinopathy are common injuries that can plague a tennis player. The last thing an athlete wants to hear is, "You must rest and stop playing tennis." Soft tissue injuries can be painful, limiting conditions that are slow to heal, which is particularly challenging to a tennis player who wants to get back in the game.
Many athletes seek advice from primary care and sports medicine physicians when they have tendon pain and then are often offered anti-inflammatories, injections, and told to rest. Typically, this common regimen only offers temporary relief and may not be the best method to heal tendinopathy. Astym therapy targets the underlying cause of many soft tissue problems, rather than just trying to relieve symptoms. It is unmatched in its ability to resolve tendinopathies, and often works even after other approaches have failed.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TENDINOPATHY, TENDINITIS AND TENDINOSIS?
The word "tendinopathy" actually means "disease of a tendon," and is a broader term for two conditions known as "tendinosis," or degenerative tendinopathy, and "tendinitis," or acute, inflammatory tendinopathy. Although "tendonitis" is used often, most cases of tendinopathy are not associated with significant inflammation and thus don't respond well to anti-inflammatory medications.
WHAT CAUSES TENDINOPATHY?
Tendinopathy can be caused by overuse or improper loading of the muscle-tendon unit. It can also be caused by degeneration of soft tissues due to injury, age or other reasons. Repetitive strain on a tendon may cause tiny tears that accumulate over time. These tears may result in pain and can eventually change the structure of the tendon resulting in acute inflammation and/or degeneration that can lead to pain, tissue adhesions, movement impairment and eventually loss of function.
HOW PHYSICAL THERAPISTS HELP HEAL TENDINOPATHY
ADDRESS THE CAUSE
- Utilize Astym therapy to address the underlying cause of tendinopathy, which is usually degenerative, by engaging the body to regenerate healthy soft tissues (muscles, tendons, etc.), and eliminate unwanted scar tissue that may be causing pain or movement restrictions.
- Correct poor footwear.
- Assess or change equipment, for example choosing a racquet with a larger sweet spot will help reduce load on the arm.
- Correct stroke mechanics, for example bending knees at least 10 degrees during the service motion will lessen the load on the shoulders and elbows.
- Identify proper training loads and recovery to avoid overuse injuries.
- Incorporate proper warm-up or cool-down for tennis.
- Develop a balanced training program for tennis to include stretching, strengthening, speed, core stability, agility, balance and coordination.
WHY ASTYM THERAPY IS SO SUCCESSFUL
Astym therapy, evidenced to engage the regenerative mechanisms of the body and promote the healing of soft tissues, has repeatedly been shown safe and effective in controlled clinical trials, clinical study, and large population outcomes data. A new approach to soft tissue treatment, Astym therapy resulted from a large, groundbreaking research endeavor supported by major hospitals and universities. It is used in settings ranging from therapy clinics to hospitals to industrial rehabilitation to elite/professional athletics, and has been proven to be more effective than other available treatments.
Astym-certification is advanced training and not everyone is qualified to perform this higher level of care. In order to become Astym-certified, a clinician must undergo intensive training and testing. Doctors often prescribe Astym therapy for their patients because it is safe, high quality care that has been proven to be effective.
More information on treatment of these injuries, including Astym therapy review videos, clinical guides, treatment tips and support information is available to Astym certified providers in the Provider Resource Center of the Astym therapy website.
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Lisa Chase, PT, OMPT, Astym Cert is an internationally recognized physical therapist, educator, lecturer and published author with specialty in rehabilitation and wellness. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Pittsburgh in 1991, and a postgraduate certification in advanced orthopedic manual therapy in 1995. She is Polestar Pilates trained, a Certified Kinesio Tape Practitioner, Certified MELT Instructor as well as Astym-certified. She currently runs her own practice Back 2 Normal Physical Therapy, Inc. where she provides expertise in integrative physical therapy with particular interest in comprehensive and holistic manual physical therapy treatments and prevention of spine, sports and orthopedic injuries.
Lisa has worked one-on-one with world-class athletes, coaches, medical and fitness specialists around the world to help prevent injuries, decrease recovery time and optimize performance. She has brought her expertise to WTA Tour (Professional Women's Tennis Association), ATP Tour (Professional Men's Tennis Association), AVP U.S. Pro Beach Volleyball, LPGA, Major League Baseball, the English Premier Soccer League and covered the 2004 Olympics in Athens Greece.
Lisa lectures nationally and has been an Adjunct Clinical Professor at Michigan State University, in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, since 1998 and Assistant Instructor for SFMA and FMS Systems since 2010. She is a published author of several books on aquatic rehabilitation and published coauthor in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Lisa is also the founder and co-owner of Rehab Links, a unique exercise software for medical, health and fitness professionals.