Tennis elbow, which is also called lateral epicondylitis, is a classic repetitive strain injury. The muscles and tendons on the back of your arm and the outside of the elbow responsible for lifting the wrist and fingers can become inflamed, irritated or exhausted due to overuse. This injury is common among those who play racquet sports, thus the name “tennis elbow.” However, it’s also a commonplace work-related injury, particularly among painters, plumbers and even those with jobs that involve heavy computer usage.
If you’ve been diagnosed with tennis elbow, you’re likely well aware of the associated pain and burning that occur on the outside of the elbow along with weakened grip strength. Your doctor has probably provided you with conservative treatment measures to reduce your pain and inflammation, such as rest, ice and NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
Once pain and inflammation have been decreased, there are a few simple yet effective exercises you can use to manage the uncomfortable symptoms associated with tennis elbow. Here are seven tennis elbow exercises and stretches that you can do from the comfort of your own home to treat your pain.
1. Mobilize Stretch
Muscle trigger points, or muscle knots, are often a factor in tennis elbow. Rhythmic stretching can work out and stimulate affected muscle groups. Try these:
- Sit on the edge of a firm chair or bench.
- Place your hands palms down with your fingers pointed backward.
- Lean into this position slightly to increase the intensity.
- Change position, laying the backs of your hands down with your fingers still pointed backward.
- Lean into this position as much as you feel comfortable.
2. Towel Twist
Wrist extensors and wrist flexors are groups of muscles that connect into the elbow and are often subject to overuse, which leads to pain and inflammation. The Towel Twist exercise works both groups of muscles. Here’s how it works:
- Sit in a straight back chair.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Hold a towel with both hands.
- Twist the towel in opposite directions as though you’re wringing out water.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Then, repeat 10 times in the other direction.
3. Fist Clench
Tennis elbow often causes poor grip strength. By working the long flexor tendons in the fingers and thumb, you can build these muscles and improve your ability to perform daily activities. Here’s how:
- Sit with your forearm resting on a flat surface in front of you.
- Hold either a small ball or rolled-up towel in your hand.
- Squeeze the object and hold for 10 seconds.
- Release, then repeat this action 10 times.
- Switch to the other arm and repeat.
4. Wrist Extension
This exercise works the muscles responsible for bending your wrist, called wrist extensors. Although small, these muscles — which connect into your elbow — are also subject to overuse. Follow these steps:
- Sit while holding a two-pound dumbbell with your palm facing downward.
- Rest your elbow on your knee and extend your wrist, curling it toward your body.
- Try to isolate your wrist while keeping the rest of your arm still.
- Repeat 10 times on each side.
- You can also perform this movement with no weight if holding the dumbbell is too challenging.
5. Wrist Flexion
The wrist flexors work opposite your wrist extensors. This exercise works your flexors, which also connect into the elbow:
- While sitting, hold a two-pound dumbbell in your hand with your palm facing upward.
- Let your elbow rest on your knee.
- Keeping your palm face up, flex your wrist, curling it toward your body.
- Attempt to isolate your wrist while keeping the rest of your arm still.
- Repeat 10 times on each side.
6. Supination With Dumbbell
This exercise works the supinator muscle — the large muscle in your forearm attached to the elbow, which gives you the ability to turn your palm upward:
- Sit in a chair with your elbow resting on your knee.
- Hold a two-pound dumbbell down vertically.
- Rotate your arm so that your palm turns upward.
- Return to the starting position.
- Try to keep the movement isolated to your lower arm while keeping your elbow and upper arm motionless.
- Repeat 20 times on each side.
7. Isometric Contractions
Some patients experience surprising pain relief effects by performing this stretching technique, which puts the tendon under tension:
- Hold your hand firmly in a neutral position using your other hand to support it.
- Bend your wrist backward.
- Start with moderate intensity for about one minute.
- You can adjust the intensity and duration to see what works best for you.
Go to OrthoBethesda for Elbow Treatment
If you’re struggling with pain or discomfort around your elbow, you could have tennis elbow. We invite patients living in or near Bethesda, MD, to contact OrthoBethesda online or give us a call at (301) 530-1010. Or schedule a visit with our Arlington, Va office. Our top team of orthopedic specialists will assess your condition and help you come up with a treatment plan.