post 6 Tennis Elbow Exercises (Rehab and Treatment)

6 Tennis Elbow Exercises (Rehab and Treatment)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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With over a decade as a fitness trainer, I've focused on athletes experiencing strain on forearm tendons, known as lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow.

Recognizing its impact beyond racquet sports, I conducted in-depth research and consulted my physical therapist to find exercises that can help relieve elbow discomfort or aid tennis elbow treatment.

We've compiled our findings into this article to guide you on strengthening forearm muscles, treating tennis elbow, and preventing recurrence.

Quick Summary

  • The best stretching exercises for tennis elbow include towel twists, wrist flexors stretch, downward wrist stretch, elbow curls, and grip squeeze.
  • Symptoms of tennis elbow include reduced grip strength and a sensation of pain and burning on the outer side of the upper arm.
  • According to Medical News Today, tennis elbow frequently arises from repetitive muscle use, impacting approximately half of tennis players in their careers and affecting 1 to 3 percent of the U.S. population.
  • As a fitness trainer, I advise clients to prioritize ample rest between workouts or sports training and consider supplements for muscle recovery.

Exercises for Tennis Elbow

A person with tennis elbows working out at the gym

Here are six exercises we've found to be safe and effective for tennis elbow, which can help manage and prevent the condition.

1. Towel twists

Towel twists involve twisting a towel with both hands to improve forearm strength and wrist flexibility, benefiting grip strength and overall arm functionality.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Sit on a chair, holding a towel with one hand at each end in a straight position.
  2. Twist the towel slightly in opposite directions.
  3. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  4. Repeat fifteen times.

2. Downward Wrist Stretch

The downward wrist stretch involves gently bending the wrist downward to enhance flexibility and alleviate tension, particularly beneficial for preventing wrist stiffness and discomfort.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Extend your right arm straight out in front of you.
  2. Use your left hand to hold the right hand.
  3. Gradually bend your wrist downward until you feel a gentle stretch.
  4. Maintain this position for fifteen to thirty seconds.
  5. Release and repeat three times.

3. Wrist Extensor Stretch

A person doing wrist extensor stretches

The wrist extensor stretch focuses on stretching the muscles on the back of the forearm, aiding in preventing and relieving tension.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Put your right arm straight out and make a fist with your hand.
  2. Use the left hand to help push the fist downwards until you feel a stretching sensation in the back of your forearm.
  3. Hold that stretch for fifteen to thirty seconds.
  4. Repeat three times.

In my training experience, I've found that these exercises are particularly beneficial for folks dealing with repetitive strain or discomfort in the wrist extensor muscles.

Articles on Stretching:

4. Standing Elbow Curls

Standing elbow curls are resistance exercises targeting the biceps and forearm muscles, contributing to overall arm strength and muscle development.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Stand with your upper back, glutes, and heels against the wall.
  2. Curl your fingers, touching the fingertips to the palm, thumbs facing down.
  3. Put your knuckles against your temples.
  4. Pull your elbows back, maintaining contact with the wall.
  5. Move the elbows forward while keeping in contact with the wall.
  6. Bring your elbows back and repeat this range of motion fifteen times.

“One of the most important things you can do when working out is to do so safely. The wrist is a complicated joint, and improper form or care can cause injury. Always make sure you are using proper form not only when exercising but also when stretching as well.”

- Nicole M. LaMarco, Health Writer

5. Forearm Supination and Pronation

A person stretching their elbows and wrists

Forearm supination and pronation exercises involve rotating the forearm, enhancing rotational strength and flexibility.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Sit beside a table with your forearm bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Place your palms flat on the table.
  3. Use your opposite hand to grab the wrist of the forearm you want to stretch.
  4. Gently guide your hand to rotate outward (supination) to have your palm facing up.
  5. Hold this position for approximately fifteen to thirty seconds.
  6. Slowly guide your hand back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat this exercise as needed to improve forearm flexibility and mobility.

In my experience as a fitness trainer, I often advise clients to use a light weight when performing this stretch.

Related Article: The Best Forearm Exercises

6. Grip Squeezes

Grip squeezes involve repeatedly squeezing a hand grip tool to enhance hand and forearm strength, promoting improved grip endurance and preventing hand fatigue during various activities.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Take a tennis ball or stress ball and hold it in your right hand.
  2. Gently squeeze the ball with your hand, applying moderate pressure.
  3. Hold the squeeze for about ten seconds.
  4. Release your grip and switch to your left hand.
  5. Repeat the same squeezing motion with your left hand for ten seconds.
  6. Continue alternating between hands.
  7. Complete three sets of squeezes for each hand.

As a fitness trainer, I found these exercises valuable, especially for those involved in activities demanding a flexible grip, like racquet sports.

Related Article: Improving Grip Strength

What Are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

A doctor writing down notes

According to Ortho Info, individuals with tennis elbow may experience physical indicators such as swelling, weakness, and tenderness, along with a range of pain from mild discomfort to intense pain [1].

Swelling and Burning Sensation: Tennis elbow often manifests with swelling and a burning sensation around the elbow, indicators of inflammation resulting from repetitive motions like gripping or twisting. These symptoms serve as initial discomfort signals, particularly common in activities that lead to tennis elbow.

Weak Grip Strength: A characteristic symptom is a noticeable weakening of grip strength, hindering the ability to grasp objects firmly or perform tasks requiring a strong grip. This weakness originates from affected tendons and muscles, compromising their support during hand and arm movements.

Tenderness on the Outside of the Elbow: Tennis elbow is marked by tenderness on the outer elbow, often localized to specific points. This sensitivity indicates inflammation and strain in tendons, particularly the extensor carpi radialis brevis, commonly affected in tennis elbow.

As a fitness trainer, I've noticed that clients often feel pain in their forearms, which can be either a constant ache or a sharp feeling when they move their arms or wrists. This pain really affects their daily activities. It's important to notice and deal with it early on to keep up with a good fitness routine.

What Can Trigger Tennis Elbow Symptoms?

According to the National Health Service, the symptoms of tennis elbow can intensify during activities involving arm and wrist movements, such as twisting or repetitive wrist extensions [2].

Additionally, lifting or bending the arm can trigger pain on the outside of the elbow, potentially radiating down the forearm.

Fully extending the arms is another trigger. As per Medical News Today, continuing the repetitive activity that caused the strain can result in weakened grip strength and the potential for the pain to radiate further down the arm [3].

How To Relieve Tennis Elbow Symptoms

Tennis elbow affects about one to three percent of the U.S. population, typically between ages 30 and 50, as per the National Institute of Health [4]. To ease symptoms, follow these steps:

Rest: Give your affected arm adequate time to heal by avoiding activities that exacerbate the symptoms.

Ice Application: Apply ice for twenty to thirty minutes every three to four hours  to reduce inflammation and numb the area, according to WebMD [5].

Range of Motion Exercises: Engage in exercises that promote a full range of motion for the affected arm to prevent stiffness.

Physical Therapy: Consider seeking professional guidance from a physical therapist who can provide targeted exercises and techniques to alleviate tennis elbow symptoms.

In certain cases, when clients consider steroid injections for inflammation and pain, I always advise consulting with a healthcare professional before deciding on this treatment.

FAQs

Can You Lift Light Weights With a Tennis Elbow?

Yes, you can lift light weights with a tennis elbow. However, it is essential to listen to your body and stop immediately if you experience significant pain during the exercise.

What Not to Do If You Have Tennis Elbow?

If you have a tennis elbow, you shouldn’t do any activity that exerts excessive stress on the affected muscles and tendons until the pain in your arm subsides.

Incorporate a Protein-Rich Diet to Promote Recovery

While tennis elbow often resolves on its own, incorporating physical therapy exercises can help you accelerate recovery.

The above strengthening exercises can help you alleviate tennis elbow pain.

However, it is crucial to perform these exercises with smooth and controlled movements.

Additionally, a protein-rich diet can aid in tissue healing, and considering the protein powders listed below can further support the recovery process:

As our tests indicate, these supplements can further promote tissue healing by providing essential nutrients for tissue repair and strengthening of the arm muscles.


References:

  1. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tennis-elbow/symptoms/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322746
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515258/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis
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