Tennis elbow is the common name for pain on the outside of the elbow caused by damage to the forearm muscles attaching there. Although it is traditionally associated with tennis backhands, swinging a racket is not the only cause of tennis elbow. Weightlifting, cooking, rock climbing, gardening and working with hand tools are also common culprits. The technical name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. It is very similar to medial epicondylitis, commonly known as golfer’s elbow, which is the same injury on the inside of the elbow.
If you are experiencing significant pain at the elbow which prevents you from using your arm normally, it is best to see a medical professional who can provide a thorough evaluation and management strategy. If the discomfort is relatively mild and you are still able to use your arm normally the following exercises will help with your recovery. Wait 3 days after symptom onset or a significant flare up before beginning the exercises. In the meantime rest the arm, avoid activities that involve strong grasping or lifting and ice the elbow for 20 minutes 3 times a day.
Wrist Extensor Lacrosse Ball Release
The muscles involved in tennis elbow are actually muscles that control the wrist, collectively known as the wrist extensors. They join together at the common extensor tendon where overload occurs causing damage to the tendon and the adjacent bone. Releasing tension in these muscles decreases the load on the common extensor tendon, allowing it to heal.
To perform the exercise place, a Lacrosse ball on a table and roll it along the back of your arm taking time to pause on any tender points allowing the muscle to . You should be able to work through the muscles in less than a minute.
Wrist Extensor Stretch
Straighten your arm out in front of your body. While keeping your elbow straight flex your wrist, bringing your palm towards your body. Provide slight over pressure with your opposite hand to add intensity to the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.
Eccentric Wrist Curls
This exercise takes advantage of eccentric loading principles to help strengthen the common extensor tendon.
To perform the exercise, rest your forearm on a table with the
wrist hanging over the edge. Grasp a 1 to 3 pound weight (you can use a soup can) with your palm facing the floor. Use your opposite hand to help raise the wrist towards the ceiling then allow your wrist to lower back towards the floor for a count of 4. Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
The eccentric wrist curls should be performed 4 days a week. The wrist extensor lacrosse ball release and stretch should be performed daily. Recent studies have shown a clear relationship between lateral epicondylitis and dysfunctional shoulder mechanics1. Assessing and rehabilitating a dysfunctional shoulder is best left up to the professionals so if your symptoms persist, look to your local sports medicine professional for help.
- Middle and lower trapezius strengthening for the management of lateral epicondylalgia: a case report.Bhatt JB, Glaser R, Chavez A, Yung E.J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Nov
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