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5 Tips for Managing Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow?

“Tennis elbow” refers to pain on the outer elbow that occurs most commonly from repeated gripping, twisting, or extension of the wrist. Anatomically, the wrist extensor muscles (on top of your forearm) converge into a tendon at the outer elbow to attach to the very bottom of the humerus (upper arm bone). With repeated use, the demand on this tendon can exceed its capacity, leading to injury of the tendon fibers and a delayed healing response (and pain).

What are common signs of tennis elbow?

  • Pain with gripping and grasping.
  • Pain with lifting even light objects, for example, a coffee mug.
  • Pain with twisting motions, such as turning a doorknob or opening a jar.

Reducing pain and jump-starting the healing process can be tricky. Full tendon healing can take up to two years, but don’t panic–that doesn’t mean you’ll have pain for two years. Most people can get their symptoms under control in several weeks to a couple of months. Check out the five exercises below to help get you back to gripping sooner rather than later.

5 ways to treat tennis elbow:

  1. Wrist extension isometrics. Position your fingers under a table, palms down, and push up into the table. Do 5 sets of 45-second holds at an effort that keeps discomfort at 3/10 max. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

2. Pronation/supination with a hammer. Hold somewhere on the handle that keeps discomfort at 3/10 or less. Starting with the hammer vertical, count to 3 seconds as you rotate the hammer to the side, then return to the starting position on a 3-count. Repeat with the hammer head moving to the other side. Both sides = 1 rep. Do 4 sets of 5 reps.

3. Bent-over rows, palms facing down. Choose a weight that makes 4 sets of 8-12 reps challenging but not painful beyond a 3/10.

4. Farmer’s carry, 5 sets of 20-30 seconds at a weight that is challenging but not painful beyond a 3/10.

5. Ball massage to the wrist extensors (forearm). Stay on the muscles, not the painful tendon itself. The goal is to increase blood flow (and thus oxygen and nutrients) to the area. Do 1-2 minutes before and after the exercises above. 

Conclusion:

  • Tennis elbow is an injury to the tendon attachment site of the muscles on top of the forearm.
  • Pain with gripping, lifting, and twisting the hand can all be signs of tennis elbow.
  • Tendon pain is notoriously slow to turn around, so try to be patient and appreciate any small improvements you may notice over the first couple of weeks as you begin to heal.
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Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.