Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis or epitrochlear bursitis, is a repetitive motion injury to elbow muscles and tendons. It happens when people use their wrists, elbows and forearms in activities like tennis, golf and baseball. However, many cases of tennis elbow are caused by non-sports related activities like hammering, computer work and painting. Tennis elbow exercises can help treat a current condition and prevent it from happening again.
After the initial pain of the injury has subsided, it is important to do tennis elbow exercises to help the tendon recover. Start slowly to insure that you are not doing more harm than good. If you find a particular exercise painful, stop doing it and try again in a few days.
Begin by stretching out the forearm muscles by holding the afflicted arm's hand facing downwards. Slowly raise it so fingers are pointed upwards. Do this several times to warm-up before doing strengthening exercises.
Lay the afflicted forearm on a table, palm down. Holding a 1-lb dumbbell or small bottle of water, slowly move your hand up and down. Move only your wrist, not your entire arm. Do three sets of 10 at first. Build up both weights and sets as your condition improves.
Similar to the extension, you need to place your arm on a table so it does not move. In this exercise, the inside of your arm should be facing up (palm up). Using a light weight, slowly move just your hand up and down again. Again, start by doing three sets of 10 and increase difficulty as your elbow improves.
Grip a tennis or similar ball in your hand. Squeeze the ball between 20 and 25 times and then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat this exercise three or four times and throughout the day as needed.
Pronator and Supinator Exercise
Place your arm on a table while holding your hand weight. Ends of the weights should be perpendicular to the floor, with one end facing up and the other down. Using your wrist, turn your hand and the weight to one side so that the weight is parallel to the floor, back to the center and then to the other side.
Consider each pass (center, side, center, other side, center) one rep. Do three sets of 10, increasing both weight and sets as your strength increases.
Illustrated Examples of Exercises
Exercises for tennis elbow can be difficult to understand without an example. To see illustrations and photographs for the exercises listed above, visit the following websites:
- Rheumatology4U Exercises for Tennis Elbow
- Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma's Physical Therapy Corner: Tennis Elbow
Further Treatment and Prevention
If you have followed through with proper rest and rehabilitation exercises and find that the condition continues to cause pain or even worsens, it may be necessary to seek further help. Surgery is usually a last resort; instead, the American Physical Therapy Association recommends discussing the following options with a physical therapist and your doctor:
- Using different equipment and/or learning new techniques to help prevent injury and allow your current tennis elbow to subside
- Using an ultrasound over the afflicted area
- Electrical stimulation therapy
- Massage of the inflamed area
- Manual therapy
After you have recovered from tennis elbow, it is important to prevent the injury from coming back. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following preventative measures be taken:
- Reviewing swing technique and grip for injuries caused by tennis, golf or other sport with a qualified professional
- Strength training
- Keeping the wrist straight while performing the repetitive action
- Wearing a forearm strap to reduce stress on the injured area
Tennis elbow exercises can help treat an inflamed tendon causing you pain. Before you start a home exercise program, see your physician to rule out other causes of your pain.