Ten Therapy Tips and Tricks to Tame Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow, also known as Lateral Epicondylitis, is caused by inflammation of the muscles of the forearm that attach to the elbow. It’s usually a result of inflammation of the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon. Although this injury is common in tennis players, many types of athletes- as well as individuals whose daily routine involves heavy and frequent arm and hand movement- are more susceptible to developing tennis elbow. The risk of developing tennis elbow is greater in individuals over 30 and continues to increase with age.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow develop gradually over a period of weeks or months as a result of repeated or forceful use of the wrist, hand, and elbow. Your symptoms may include:
- Pain that radiates into your forearm and wrist
- Difficulty doing common tasks, such as turning a doorknob or holding a coffee cup
- Difficulty with gripping activities
- Increased pain when you use your wrist and hand for lifting objects, opening a jar, or gripping something tightly such as a knife and a fork
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Weakness in the forearm, wrist, or hand
10 Tips and Tricks for Alleviating Tennis Elbow Symptoms
- Fist clench — Poor grip strength is a common symptom of tennis elbow. Improving grip strength by building the muscles of the forearm can help improve ability to perform daily activities. One of several exercises to improve grip strength involves a tennis ball/stress ball.
How to do it 1) hold a foam stress ball or tennis ball in your palm, secured by your four fingers, and NOT your thumb 2) press your fingers into the ball and then release 3) repeat 25 times, up to four times per day
- Supination with a dumbell — The supinator muscle is responsible for turning the palm upward and is often involved in movements that can cause tennis elbow.
To strengthen this muscle 1) grab a 1-2lb dumbell or a can of vegetables and sit down 2) rest your forearm on your thigh so that your wrist hangs over the edge of your kneee 3) hold the weight in your hand with your palm facing the ceiling 4) moving only your wrist, rotate the weight so that your palm faces the floor 5) rotate wrist to return palm to upward facing position 6) repeat 10 times
- Wrist extension — The wrist extensors are a group of muscles that are responsible for bending the wrist, like during the hand signal for stop. These small muscles that connect into the elbow are often subject to overuse, especially during racket sports.
To stretch these muscles 1) grab a 1-2lb dumbell or a can of vegetables and sit down 2) rest your forearm on your thigh so that your wrist hangs over the edge of your knee 3) hold the weight in your hand with your palm facing up 4) moving only your wrist, curl the dumbell up and down 5) repeat 10 times
- Wrist flexion — The wrist flexors are a group of muscles that work opposite the wrist extensors.
To stretch this muscle group 1) hold your arm straight out with your palm facing up 2) using your other hand, press your fingers down toward your palm 3) hold for 15-20 seconds & repeat 3-5 times
- Finger stretch — 1) One at a time, touch your fingers to your thumb 2) slowly separate your thumb and fingers 3) Repeat up to 25 times per finger *You can wrap a rubber band around your thumb and finger for added resistance*
- Loosen the strings of your tennis racket — rackets with tighter stings exert more pressure on the forearm during backhanded shots. Loosening the tension of racket strings increases the amount of time the ball stays on the racket. As a result, the shock of the impact is spread out over a greater period of time, and the strings absorb more of the shock and relieves strain on the elbow. However, be careful to not loosen the strings so much that your stroke becomes uncontrolled.
- Modify your stroke — for tennis players specifically, stick with a two-handed backhand and use your whole body to create a powerful stroke, not just your dominant arm
- Use an ergonomic keyboard — try to use a keyboard that prevents your wrist from extending past 30 degrees
- Modify or use alternate tools— if your occupation involves using heavy tools, consider using tools with bigger grips, wearing gloves, or selecting alternative tools such as a hammer with padding to avoid shock on the elbow
- Use shoulder and upper arm muscles — Focus on using shoulder and upper arm muscles to take strain off of your elbow.