Tennis Elbow Rehab – A Daily Self-Care Routine

Article by Lucas Rockwood

Do you have pain on the lateral side of your elbow that comes and goes? You might be suffering from lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow, and if so, this guide is for you.

Tennis elbow is a common condition caused by repetitive strain on the tendons and muscles that attach to the lateral epicondyle, a bony bump on the outer side of the elbow. It’s not limited to tennis players and can affect anyone who performs repetitive arm and wrist movements, regardless of the type of activity – rock climbers, carpenters, even office workers are all commonly affected. The repetitive movements can cause small tears in the tendon, leading to inflammation, pain, and damage over time.

Unfortunately, tennis elbow is a not a quick injury to fix and can last for a year or two. However, with the right self-care techniques you can accelerate the healing process and see a huge improvement within six months. The simple routine in this article works on gently mobilizing and strengthening the tendons and muscles. It takes just five minutes a day and can be done anywhere.

Anatomy of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow affects the tendons and muscles in the forearm that attach to the lateral epicondyle, the bony bump on the outer side of the elbow. Specifically, it affects the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) tendon, which is responsible for extending the wrist and stabilizing the forearm. The ECRB tendon attaches to the lateral epicondyle and helps to transmit force from the forearm muscles to the hand.

With repetitive arm and wrist movements, such as those involved in playing tennis, using manual tools, or even using a computer mouse, the ECRB tendon can become overworked and strained. Over time, this can lead to small tears in the tendon and surrounding tissue, which causes inflammation and pain.

Tendons have poor blood supply, so movement is important to help clear out inflammation and bring in new nutrients for healing.

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Correctives Exercises

ROM Exercices

  • Place your forearm on the edge of a table, and hold a tennis racket or a can in your hand
  • Brace your forearm underneath with your opposite hand
  • Extend your wrist upwards, repeat three times
  • Flex your wrist downwards three times
  • Now move your hand in three clockwise circles (circumduction)
  • Repeat counterclockwise
  • Practice 1-2 minutes per day to mobilize this region

Isometric Hold

To strengthen and heal, you need to positively stress the tendon and tense the extensor muscles. They contract by lifting and extending your wrist. But you can’t lift weights with damaged tissue, so you need to approach this exercise gently.

  • Sit in front of a table, place your hands palms down under the table
  • Press your hands up into the table, as if you are trying to lift it
  • Be mindful not to put too much tension there and hold for 30 seconds
  • Remember to do this with both hands for muscle balance and to avoid injury on your other, non-injured arm
  • Release, shake it out
  • Repeat this for 30 seconds, four times a day

Eccentric Movement

Fast forward a month or two – if your level of discomfort during the isometric hold has improved from a seven out of 10 to a three or four out of 10, it’s time to add load to help lengthen the muscles as they heal. The best way to do this is with a band, but it’s a lot harder than you might think.

  • Sit with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, place an exercise band under your foot and over the top of your hand
  • Brace your forearm underneath with your opposite hand
  • Lower your hand down to the count of three
  • Lift your hand back up to the count of three
  • Hold for the count of three
  • Relax and shake it out
  • Repeat for three sets of five rounds per day

Safety Disclaimer

This guide is for educational purposes only. Tennis elbow can be debilitating, and in rare cases may even require surgery. See a doctor before attempting self-care practices.

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