“I have tennis elbow, can I still ski?”
As the outside temperature starts to drop, and the snow begins to blow, you’re probably turning your thoughts to winter activities. With reports of new snow in the forecast, as you’re waxing your skis, you may wonder if you should ski when you’ve been diagnosed with tennis elbow.
There’s not a simple answer to the question, as it depends on the severity of your condition. It’s helpful to talk in terms of pain levels when figuring out the acuteness of your symptoms. From zero to ten, 0 is no pain, and 10 is a pain level so high you need to go to the emergency room.
If your pain at rest is 3 or 4 but goes even higher with activity, it’s best for you to rest and rehab your arm. Skiing would most likely aggravate your condition. You should consider hand therapy to get you on the road to recovery. If you have 0 pain at rest, and most of the day, but your pain goes up to a 2 with arm use, you can consider skiing if you take some of the following advice.
First, let’s talk about your ski poles. Use both of them! It may seem like a good idea to ski with only one pole on your uninjured side, but this is generally not recommended. It can throw your balance off and cause injury from overuse to your uninjured side. So use both poles and keep the following suggestions in mind. Ski poles need to be the right length for your height. You should be able to grip your poles with your elbows bent to 90 degrees. If your poles are too short, or too long, it puts more strain on your elbow. Make sure you use your ski pole strap. It allows you to generate power from your arms with less force through your grip, which decreases strain on your elbow. Also, the lighter the pole, the better. When you’re skiing, keep your grip light on your poles. Although you can’t control ski conditions, it’s definitely more jarring on your arms to be skiing in hard packed, icy conditions than soft snow.
Ski smart and try to minimize poling as much as you can. Try to ski as close to the chair lift as possible. When you need to pole, try making shorter arm strokes, keeping your elbows close to your body, as opposed to long arm strokes with the arms fully extended in front of you. Skate with your legs when you can, it’s great for core strength, and minimizes arm use.
Before and after skiing, do some forearm stretches. If you’re using a forearm strap, wear it when skiing. If your pain level increases at the end of your ski day, use a cold pack for about 8 minutes several times throughout the evening.
In early season, plan on taking several breaks during the day. Consider skiing for a half day, and see how your arm feels. Remember to dress for the conditions, and keep warm, especially your hands and arms when you have tennis elbow.
Listen to your body, and have fun!