Approximately 50% of people who play tennis will experience tennis elbow at some time during their playing career. Even if you don’t play tennis, you may have experienced elbow pain from various other physical activities that stress the elbow. Tennis elbow can be debilitating and, if left untreated, can cause chronic issues and worse pain with movements. Suppose you have tried various remedies or treatments and have continued to deal with persistent pain. In that case, this article is for you.
In a previous article, “How Physical Therapy Helps Tennis Elbow”, we reviewed more specifically what tennis elbow is and what Physical Therapy can do to treat this condition. Tennis elbow is a painful soft tissue injury that affects the lateral elbow and can occasionally radiate down the arm. Physical Therapy is beneficial in strengthening weak soft tissue as well as correcting other mechanical deficits that may be contributing to your pain. It’s important to receive the correct diagnosis for this condition, as well as implement appropriate exercises that will help to improve pain and prevent re-injury. This article will outline a few exercises to help improve your painful condition.
What Causes Tennis Elbow To Occur
Tennis elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is typically caused by overloaded soft tissue that cannot meet the demands of the activity or stress placed on it. Repetitive stress on weak muscles and tendons can cause chronic pain and inflammation that may worsen over time if not treated appropriately. Tennis elbow may be directly related to tennis and could additionally be caused by faulty mechanics with your tennis swing. If this is the case, then appropriate instruction by a tennis professional may be warranted to reduce the stress placed on your elbow. Activities involving a lot of physical labor have additionally been known to contribute to this issue. Any activity involving repetitive hand gripping or twisting and rotating of the forearm may contribute to excessive stress being placed on the elbow.
5 Exercises To Improve Tennis Elbow
Eccentric Wrist Extension
- In a seated position, rest your forearm on the table with your elbow at approximately 90°.
- Grab a weight or dumbbell with your resting hand maintaining, a light grip on the weight.
- Utilizing your other hand, slowly lift the weight into a comfortable wrist-extended position towards the back of your forearm. (1)
- Let go of the weight with your opposing hand and slowly lower the weight for four seconds. (2)
- Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
- In a seated position with both elbows bent and in towards your sides, grip the flexbar with both palms facing the ground. (1)
- Bend both wrists towards the body, ensuring your elbows stay at your sides. (2)
- Flex and rotate the non-affected wrist while maintaining the affected wrist in an extended position. (3)
- Slowly rotate the affected wrist into a flexed and rotated position to match the position of the opposite hand. (4)
- Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
- Begin with a weighted object such as a hammer, gripping the object lightly while resting your affected arm on a supporting surface. (1)
- While keeping your elbow and shoulder stationary, rotate your elbow side to side slowly. (2)
- Do not rotate past the point of the object is parallel to the floor
- Perform 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions
Dynamic Wrist Curls
- Begin by sitting gripping a flexbar with both palms facing towards the floor with the elbows bent. (1)
- Keep both elbows close to your side and twist one hand counterclockwise while the opposite hand twists the flexbar clockwise. (2)
- Switch the direction of each hand twisting, maintaining a sufficient amount of resistance with each twist, ensuring that the muscles are working. (3)
- Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Diagonal Shoulder Raise
- Begin with a dumbbell in one hand and the opposite leg forward. The palm holding the dumbbell should be resting on the opposite leg. (1)
- Initiate the movement by shifting weight from the forward leg to the back leg while bending the elbow to raise the dumbbell. The eyes follow the moving hand for the entire exercise. (2)
- Raise the dumbbell across the body diagonal while gradually rotating the arm outward as the arm straightens. (3)
- Bring the arm to a controlled stop. (4)
- Return to your starting position. (5)
- Perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
Preventing Recurrence Of Tennis Elbow
It’s important to realize that this is a condition that can return if you don’t take the appropriate steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. It is essential to continue an exercise program that keeps your shoulder, elbow and wrist muscles strong to be able to handle the excessive load that may have caused the injury in the first place. Flexibility may additionally be important to maintain throughout the upper extremity. Knowing how to manage pain and acute-flare ups effectively, whether it be with icing or bracing which was additionally covered in a previous article is important to control pain effectively. It may be necessary to modify your activity including reducing the volume or changing the mechanics of how you perform your activity that caused your elbow to be painful in the first place. Should you have any additional questions about your injury, you should contact a Physical Therapist or additional health care professional when in doubt.
Thank you for reading 5 Essential Exercises to Improve Tennis Elbow. We hope it has helped you understand more about your lateral elbow pain. To learn more about other conditions and how we treat different types of common sports injuries, please visit our Sports Injuries page.
Check out what injuries we commonly treat and what to expect during an appointment.