9 Tennis Elbow Exercises And Stretches For Quick Pain Relief

Tennis Elbow exercises

Tennis elbow can be quite painful.

In this article, we’ll be discussing some exercises and stretches you can use to get some pain relief.

9 Exercises and Stretches For Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow may lead to muscle weakness and sometimes reduced movement at the elbow joint.

Strengthening and stretching exercises are very important in restoring and maintaining the integrity of the muscles.

Some of these exercises are:

1. Grip Strengthening Exercises

This can be done using a soft ball or a rolled up towel. This strengthens the muscles responsible for gripping objects

  • Hold on to any of the objects mentioned
  • Hold for 10 seconds
  • Release
  • Repeat 3 times

2. Wrist Extensor Stretch

wrist extensor stretch

  • Stretch out your affected hand in front of you
  • Ensure your elbow is not bent and your palm is facing the ground
  • Use your other hand to gently bend your wrist with your fingers pointing towards the floor
  • Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  • Release

3. Wrist Extension Exercises

  • Bend your elbow at 90 degrees on a table or on your thigh
  • Let your wrist hang at the edge of the table or at your knee with your palm facing the ground
  • Hold on to a dumbbell
  • Bend your wrist up
  • Return to starting position
  • Repeat 10 times

4. Wrist Flexion Stretches

wrist flexion stretches

  • Stretch out the affected hand with palm facing the ground
  • Use your other hand to carefully bend the wrist upwards with fingers pointing to the ceiling
  • Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  • Release

5. Wrist Flexion Exercises

This is similar to the wrist extension exercise. The difference however is:

  • The palm faces the ceiling
  • The dumbbell will be in the palm
  • Bend the wrist till the palm faces you
  • Return to starting position
  • Repeat 10 times

6. Elbow Flexion Exercises

  • Place a dumbbell in your palm with your elbow bent at 90 degrees
  • Your palm should face upwards
  • Slowly bend the elbow with the dumbbell in your palm reaching towards your shoulder
  • Return to starting position
  • Repeat 10 times

7. Wringing Exercises

  • Place your arms straight in front of you with palms facing the ground
  • Do not bend your elbow
  • hold on to a towel with both hands
  • Wring the towel as if you want to squeeze out water from the towel
  • Count 10 times

8. Supination Exercise

  • Place your arm on a table or on your thigh with your elbow bent at 90 degrees
  • Hold on to a dumbbell with your palm facing the ground
  • Twist your wrist so your palm faces the ceiling
  • Return to the original position
  • Repeat 10 times

9. Finger Stretches

  • Place a rubber or a hair tie around your fingers
  • Open your fingers out to stretch the band out
  • Hold for 10 – 15 seconds
  • Rest

How Long Does Healing Take?

It roughly takes about 6 months to 2 years for the injury to heal depending on the severity of the injury and how early a treatment intervention was done.

Now that we have discussed different exercises and healing time, let’s discuss some basics.

What Is Tennis Elbow?

The elbow joint

Let us first understand the joint involved; the elbow joint.

The elbow joint is made up of three bones;

  • The humerus in the arm
  • The Radial bone in the forearm
  • The ulna bone in the forearm

These bones are joined together by ligaments and muscles attach to them with tendons. The humerus has two bony prominences that articulate with the radius and ulna bone.

When we talk about tennis elbow, we refer to pain at one of the bony prominences of the humerus which is known as the lateral epicondyle.

Tennis elbow is an injury to the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle.

The tendons attach the following muscles to the lateral epicondyle:

  • Muscles that bend the wrist to the back
  • Muscles that bend the fingers upwards
  • Muscles that assist in bending the elbow joint
  • Muscles that turn the palm towards the ceiling and to the floor (supinators)

The medical name for tennis elbow is known as “lateral epicondylitis” but it is called tennis elbow because it was popular among lawn tennis players.

What Can Cause It?

Tennis

1. Overuse

Repetitive movements at the elbow and wrist can cause the tendons to rub against each other or get irritated which can lead to pain or swelling of the tendon at the elbow joint.

2. Occupation

Every job places a lot of demand on different parts of the body. A surgeon, for example, may feel pain at the neck because he has to bend his neck to look at his patient during the surgery for long periods of time.

Certain jobs can place a lot of stress on the tendons because of the positions of our arms such as typing which usually keeps the wrists extended 70% of the typing period.

Jobs that involve the overuse of the tendons at the elbow are:

  • Typing
  • Carpentry
  • Sewing
  • Butchers

3. Sporting activities

Sports are usually done for leisure or professionally. Racket sports like tennis, squash or badminton cause awkward positions of our wrists and elbow because of their style of play. This places a lot of strain on the tendon and eventually lead to tennis elbow.

How Can You Tell If You Have It?

  • Pain at the side of the elbow
  • Tenderness at the outer part of the elbow
  • Inability to grip
  • Pain while using the wrist joint
  • Pain while trying to hold objects
  • Pain trying to open the door

Diagnostic Tests

X- rays and MRI are advised to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms as tennis elbow. It also shows the severity of the injury which directs the medical professionals on how to properly manage the condition.

How Is It Treated?

First Aid

When Pain is noticed at the elbow, the first step is to use the PRICE method

  • Protect the joint from any further injury.
  • Rest the joint from repetitive movements. This can be achieved by wearing elbow support to limit movement at the elbow joint.
  • Ice the joint. Ice helps to reduce swelling and relieve pain by making the elbow joint a bit numb. Crushed ice in a damp towel wrapped around the elbow joint for 10-15 minutes can achieve this.
  • Compression to reduce swelling can be achieved by wrapping the elbow joint with an elastic bandage to help reduce the swelling that may happen with the swollen tendon.
  • Elevation may not be necessary but depends on the severity of the injury and how swollen the elbow joint is.

The PRICE treatment should be done for 72 hours. If there is no change in symptoms, kindly see a doctor.

NSAIDs

Pain relieving medications and medications that reduce the inflammatory process will be prescribed by the doctor. Such medications are ibuprofen, naproxen or ketoprofen.

Physiotherapy

Depending on the results from the x-ray or MRI, the doctor will refer to a physiotherapist to take you back to how you were prior to the injury.

A physiotherapist will carry out some examinations on you to be sure of the muscles involved and if there is still pain. They will also look at the results of the diagnostic test results as well to help design an appropriate treatment regime for you.

The physiotherapist goals will be:

  • To relieve pain which can be done using ice or heat therapy or other forms of electrotherapy like an ultrasound treatment
  • Due to pain, there may be muscle weakness. They will design an exercise regimen to strengthen the weak muscles. Some muscles may be tight as well because of the positioning to avoid pain so stretching exercises will be recommended as well.
  • Elbow support will be recommended and taught how often it should be worn.
  • They will also educate you on certain things that may cause a re-injury and how it can be avoided.

Surgery

Surgery is recommended if there are no changes in symptoms after physiotherapy or medications given. It is usually the last resort.

Platelet Rich Plasma

This is a new mode of treatment which involves the use of platelets which are responsible for wound healing. The affected tendon is injected by blood concentrated with the platelets to help speed up healing of the injured anatomical structure.

How Can It Be Prevented?

  • Try to work without bending your wrist
  • Stretch your muscles before and after a sporting activity
  • Try and reduce repetitive movements
  • Go on stretch breaks
  • Change your workstation

Adekanmi Lipede

Adekanmi Lipede is a licensed physiotherapist with a Master's degree in physical activity and public health. She loves to exercise and read.
Adekanmi Lipede