Best Pickleball Paddle for Tennis Elbow
That darn elbow pain finally got you to the doctor. And all those years of medical school resulted in her telling you it is time to find the best pickleball paddle for tennis elbow.
To be sure, anytime you get to buy a new paddle, it can be a fun and enlightening process, but tennis elbow sufferers will be the first to tell you that elbow pain is no fun. For one thing, it hurts! But it also could sideline you from your favorite sport for a while and that is a nightmare for the pickleball player.
Tennis Elbow vs. Pickleball Elbow
Let's get one thing straight from the beginning: get to the doctor if you are feeling pain. They will be able to tell you exactly what you have and what is the best way for you to treat pickleball elbow in your situation.
The longer you wait, the more likely it is you will continue to have pain and to make it worse. Moreover, if you see the doc when you are experiencing tennis elbow at the early stage, you are more likely to have a faster recovery.
The terms "tennis elbow" and "pickleball elbow" describe the same problem. We use the terms interchangeably. Doctors call it "lateral epicondylitis" because that is the technical name for it and because they went to medical school.
Tennis Elbow vs. Golfer's Elbow
Golfer's elbow is not the same thing as tennis elbow. Yes, they both involve injured tendons but not the same ones.
But golfer's elbow will likely involve different steps to recovery than tennis elbow. It really is tough to figure out the problem if you play other sports that work the elbow area so let the doctor make full use of that medical degree by making the diagnosis.
What is Tennis Elbow?
The Mayo Clinic tells us that where the forearm muscles attach to the outside of the elbow, injuries occur due to repetitive motions stressing the elbow area. It really is just that simple.
This problem is not confined to a racquet sport participant. In fact, this can arise from work related activities or anything that exposes those muscles and tendons to repeated injury and even some tearing.
Tennis elbow is one of those conditions that is easily treated. But doing nothing is not the best course of action as this condition is unlikely to resolve itself if you continue to do all the same things with the same frequency and with the same equipment.
2 Main Causes of Pickleball Elbow
1) Previous Injury
If you hurt the elbow previously, you are much more likely to have the same problem again. This is why it is better to prevent pickleball elbow (see below) than to deal with the burning pain as it occurs.
Pickleball players will generally benefit from a combination of strategies to eliminate the pain and then taking steps to keep it from coming back.
When a ball strikes the paddle (or strings in tennis) energy in the form of vibration is transferred from the ball to the paddle, down the handle to the hand, wrist joints, up the forearm muscles and into the elbow ultimately reaching the whole arm and shoulder. When that happens over and over to that bony knob at the side of the elbow, the risk is injury or re-injury.
When a great paddle brand talks about sweet spot, it is referring to that prime location in the paddle where they can best absorb shock keeping vibration away from those bony knobs in the elbow where the burning pain of tennis elbow arises. But all pickleball players will miss the sweet spot - some more than others - and hit shots all over the paddle face.
4 Solutions for Pickleball Elbow
1) Doctor Prescribed Meds
Various medications can help with all that nasty inflammation and relieve pain at least temporarily. This is dealing with the pain symptoms and may not solve whatever is actually causing the tennis elbow pickleball players suffer from.
2) Physical Therapy
Your MD might prescribe some physical therapy. These PT people are real pros in dealing with sports injuries and will set up a specific series of rehab exercises to deal with the pain.
The bonus is that these treatments are likely in very convenient locations now. There are PT rehab centers all over. Be sure your particular PT center will take your insurance, however.
But just like with the meds and with rest, you might only be dealing with the symptoms and not the root cause.
The decision to put away the pickleball paddle in order to deal with tennis elbow is a tough one. On one hand, this might solve the whole problem.
But, on the other hand, it may not be the complete solution. Playing pickleball after resting for a while may bring back the problem because you may not have solved the real issue.
Recall that tennis elbow comes about because of vibrations stressing the elbow over and over again. When you repeatedly play pickleball tennis elbow can come back.
And what fun is sitting around watching people playing pickleball? And sitting next to the pickleball court might be good for your tan but not so great for your conditioning.
Fortunately, this is rarely the solution for pickleball elbow. Again, your sports medicine professional is best positioned to make this recommendation.
Finding the Best Pickleball Paddle for Tennis Elbow
There are a whole host of ways to get at the core problem. Let's start with the paddle.
Get the Right Paddle Weight
When you shop for the best pickleball paddle for your pickleball game, there are plenty of considerations as we discuss in our Buying Guide. But paddle weight is key - especially when dealing with pickleball elbow.
Many pickleball players are like Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek who always wants more power from his ship's engines. These players are looking at and buying a heavier pickleball paddle.
And it's true: a heavier weight paddle will help generate power (just not for Captain Kirk - unless he is playing pickleball.) But the tradeoff can be tennis elbow as these will cause more vibration especially on off-center shots.
First Paddle Issues
A beginner might think they want power from a heavier paddle, but this is likely a mistake even for the tennis player just starting pickleball. It is also true that just a couple of ounces can make a huge difference in pickleball paddles.
Heavy Paddle Defined
Pickleball paddles weighing 8.5 ounces or more are considered heavy paddles. Brands will tell you the official paddle weight in their product description.
Is a Lightweight Paddle the Answer?
Now this is where it gets tricky. We know that heavy pickleball paddles can be bad for tennis elbow. But a lightweight pickleball paddle may not be the answer either.
Weighing in at a svelte 7.2 ounces or less, these pickleball paddles encourage more ball control and are generally the ticket for newer players. A lighter weight paddle makes it easy to swing the paddle and allows more wrist action.
All of that sounds great, but the lower power generation means that players with light weight paddles may swing harder and guess what that can do - especially on shots out of the sweet spot. Yup, you guessed it: create vibration.
Conclusion About Light Weights
Although better for tennis elbow than a beefier pickleball paddle, a light weight paddle may not be ideal. That, of course, means a close look at a mid weight paddle is in order.
3 Advantages of a Mid Weight Paddle
1) Tons of Choices
All the brands know this weight (7.3 ounces - 8.4 ounces) is the perfect weight for many pickleball players so there are lots of choices (see below). Lots of colors and designs too (if that is important to you!)
2) Balance of Power and Control
A medium weight paddle features the balance that many players need. Generally, they have more power than a lighter paddle and more control than the heavy paddles. And several brands make the mid size to deal specifically with pickleball elbow by managing vibrations before they ever get to the arm.
3) Full Range of Prices
While more expensive than solid wooden paddles (which can be really tough for tennis elbow) there are many affordable pickleball paddles with a honeycomb core. The honeycomb core is very important for absorbing vibration and different paddles will have different materials making up the core.
It is mostly a mistake to shop purely based on prices although everyone has a budget of some kind. Be sure to shop for paddles that have all the features you want. Price can be a tie breaker when you get down to the final two.
Have the Correct Pickleball Paddle Grip Size
Have the Correct Pickleball Paddle Grip Size
A pickleball paddle can have several different grip sizes to choose from. However, there are not as many choices as when choosing a tennis grip size.
Standar Grip Sizing Techniques
Just like a with tennis, a pickleball paddle grip size is best when you can place your index finger between the end of your fingers and the palm of your hand gripping the paddle. This index finger test is quite reliable. But since there are not as many choices in grip size you may be in between sizes.
Getting the correct grip size will really help tennis elbow and the wrong grip size will make it worse (maybe much worse.) You will want to buy the smaller grips and build up the grip to your ideal grip size. This is a very easy DIY process and the grips to do this are widely available.
Be Careful of Paddle Length
The standard size paddle head that you see most often is just right for tennis elbow problems. There are some slightly longer and more narrow options in the market for more advanced players.
On these paddles the ideal strike spot is significantly smaller which is just fine for the advanced player as they are more like to hit it than the average or beginning player. But the longer length and smaller sweet spot both conspire to create vibration for the average player.
Hitting a ball off the edge guard on these paddles is really likely to make tennis elbow much worse. The experts will avoid this when they play pickleball.
5 Ways to prevent Pickleball Elbow
As discussed above, getting a paddle with the right weight, grip and length is perhaps the best thing you can do for tennis elbow. But there are several other things you can do to keep pickleball elbow away.
There are many great stretching exercises for your arm, elbow and wrist. Before playing (and after too) getting those muscles stretched will ease the wear and tear.
Just add these to your pre-match routine. A couple of minutes of stretching can go a long way to preventing many injuries including tennis elbow.
2) Warm Up Slowly
Many players warm up with hitting easy balls back and forth from the kitchen line on the pickleball court. This is a great practice and can help your game overall and not just with pickleball elbow.
Keeping that sweatshirt on until the game is ready to begin will also help your arm get warmer faster. You do not want your first big swing to come until you are warm and hitting smashes with a cold arm is an invitation to a problem.
3) Check Your Playing Style and Mechanics
If you use unorthodox strokes, your mechanics may be contributing to your tennis elbow. A poor backhand swing is especially tough on elbows.
Take a lesson and have the instructor check your technique. It is possible a minor adjustment to how you hit the ball will make a gigantic difference in preventing pickleball elbow.
In addition, if you find yourself hitting lots of backhands, see if your court position is correct. Good players will hit to the competition backhand as it generally is the weaker shot, but whenever possible hit forehands!
4) Work on Overall Fitness
As your overall arm and body fitness improve, you get stronger and this will also help avoid tennis elbow. While playing pickleball is always fun, cross training with light weights or playing other sports gives your elbow a chance to recover between games.
Cardio workouts will also help with overall strength and endurance. Cardio is perfect for those tournament players who will play several matches in row.
5) Buy an Elbow Brace
Your doctor may recommend an elbow brace for your tennis elbow. There are many high quality braces on the market.
A tennis elbow brace works as a counter lever to the stress caused by playing. If you wear your tennis elbow brace the way it is intended, the support may help prevent or manage pain.
But a tennis elbow brace is not for everyone, and it really is just dealing with those symptoms again. Some players with tennis elbow find a quality elbow brace or elbow strap are the perfect solution to their elbow issues. Other players do not get the same results.
Great Paddles for Bad Elbows
(In alpabetical order)
Baddle Echelon Midweight
Longer than average handle for two handed backhands
USAPA Approved for Tournament Play
Anti Slip Grip
Franklin Aspen Kern Centre
Value Price in this Group
ProKennex Ovation Flight
7.3 - 7.6 ounces
Special Vibration Control Specifically for Tennis Elbow
Lightest Paddle in Group
Head Radical Tour
Enhanced Vibration Dampening
Hydrosorb Pro Grip
7.6 - 8.0 ounces
Giant Sweet Spots to Reduce Off-Center Vibration
Fiberglass Composite Surface
Cushion Aire Perforated Grip
ONe Stop Shopping
It doesn't matter what kind of paddle you are interested in: Pickleball-paddles.com has a huge selection where you are sure to find the perfect paddle for you.
But the shopping doesn't stop there. You need a good pair of shoes for all of those quick stops and starts on the pickleball court. Stock up on balls here too!
You will need a pickleball bag for all your things like hats and other apparel for men and women and kids. Get your sunglasses for those outside games too!
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