Tennis Elbow Exercises, Stretches and Treatments

Stop suffering from tennis elbow. We’ve researched the best exercises, stretches and treatments to show you how to treat tennis elbow effectively. (if you want to know the symptoms of tennis elbow check this full guide) 

Below you’ll see the top 17 exercises we recommend to help get you back playing ASAP.

Tennis Elbow Exercises
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Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, in clinical terminology, is known as Lateral Epicondylitis (LE). It is a health condition that mainly causes mild to severe pain around the outer side of the elbow. Usually, it occurs when the forearm’s muscles and tendons that are closer to the elbow joint are overused strenuously.

Also called Tennis Elbow, it is regarded as a classic repetitive strain injury. Since the tendons and muscles on your arm’s backside and the elbow’s outer side perform the strenuous job of lifting your wrist and fingers, these become vulnerable to inflammation, irritation, and exhaustion. This leads to Tennis Elbow.

It is known as Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow because it is more common in racquet sports players. However, it is a work-related injury. Therefore, painters, plumbers, or those who use computers a lot are also susceptible to getting Tennis Elbow.

Why You Get Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow is a kind of tendinitis, which means swelling of the tendons. It causes pain in the elbow and forearm region. Tendons, in simple words, are bands of tough tissue connecting your lower arm’s muscles to the bone. Anyone can get Tennis Elbow, even those who haven’t played tennis ever because it is caused when your forearm undergoes repetitive gripping activities when you repeatedly use the first two fingers and thumb.  The condition is often painful and can impact people who perform repetitive upper body activities such as musicians, carpenters, or computer programmers, apart from tennis players.

Watch this video to learn about the causes of Tennis Elbow.

Is it ok to exercise with Tennis Elbow?

If you have Golfer’s Elbow or Tennis Elbow, you can continue with cardiovascular exercises and lower body workouts. It is necessary that your body stays in motion through exercising if you want to heal faster and maintain good circulation. If you stop exercising altogether, your muscles will become stagnant and degenerative, which is not an ideal situation when you have a tendon injury.

When it comes to weight lifting, many people find it confusing whether they should continue with weights or not. Well, upper body strength training depends on several factors. The most imperative one being how you developed Tennis Elbow in the first place. If it occurred from over-exercising, then it is not a good idea to continue with upper body strengthening routine, at least for some time. Timing is a crucial factor in resuming upper body strengthening. However, after some time when your injury is considerably healed, you can do rehab exercised for Tennis Elbow.

Check out this video to learn more about Tennis Elbow rehab exercises.

Conversely, if the injury is a result of another activity, it isn’t necessary to avoid workouts. But, remember that you will still need to cut down on weight training, number of sets, and resistance exercises. You might also need to stop specific activities for some time because rigorous exercising isn’t ideal if you have a Tennis Elbow injury. Swimming is in another league altogether, it sometimes can work, but most of the times it doesn’t. A rule of thumb to follow when you have developed Golfer’s Elbow is to take a break from the activity that caused you the injury and give yourself some time to heal.

Here are some tips to help you remain energetic without compromising on the recovery period.

Warm-Up:

Always start with a 10 to 15-minute-long cardio session to encourage blood flow and warm up your muscles. Warming up should be your top priority when you start to workout. Now do the abdominal/hips/core/legs routine before commencing the upper body strength training. This will further help your body warm up comprehensively.

Once you are done warming up, start your routine with light and gentle forearm-specific exercises. Stretching before performing resistance or weight training for your upper body is also a good strategy.

In this video you can understand how to warm up properly with Tennis Elbow.

Less is always more:

This rule should be followed with virtually every kind of injury, not just Tennis Elbow. You must always start from lesser weights than you would typically lift, even if it doesn’t feel satisfying to you. It is much better to exercise less than aggravating your injury and becoming unable to do anything for several more weeks..right?

So, assuming that you have a habit of doing at least three sets at a time, we suggest that you cut down to just 1 or 2. It depends on the condition of your injury. You can do one light or a medium set and avoid the heavy ones.

If it hurts, stop right away:

This is perhaps the most important rule that you must follow when performing any upper body exercise or even Tennis Elbow specific exercise. If you start feeling pain, give your body time to heal instead of forcing it to take more stress than it can endure.

What is the best exercise for Tennis Elbow?

Perform the following exercises to stretch your wrists plus to increase your grip. These exercises have to be done regularly every day. The other exercises should be performed three times a week on alternative days. Repetition of a downward stretch of the wrist is advised at the end of the exercise routine.

Doctors do not recommend to carry out the strengthening exercises prior to playing any sports as they can cause harm or injury due to tiring out your muscles. However, it is okay to do exercise that stretches the wrist.

 

The exercises mentioned below have been are devised specially to provide durability, support, and stretching to the parts holding up your elbow.Being involved in physical activity is of the essence. Daily, perform the exercises recommended to you after checking if they are not harmful to you. It is slow progress where you can start by exercising for a short amount of time, and then little by little, you complete the whole routine. Continue this even after recovery as it prevents relapse in the future. You can consult your physiotherapist for further queries.

 

When it comes to injuries or diseases related to nerves, such as the cubital tunnel syndrome or radial tunnel syndrome, you should only consult your physician regarding the exercises you can do to make it better. Any wrong movement will worsen the case.

It is also crucial to keep in mind not to use quick exercises where you yank your hands. Gentle movements will help in healing. Doctors advise to ice your elbow to soothe the pain after you finish exercising.

Finger stretch with rubber band

Wrap an elastic band around your fingers and thumb and put your hand in a slightly curved shape. Start the exercise by moving your digits away from each other by opening your hand, repeat the process ten times. That was one whole set; now do two more sets. Once or twice daily.

Grip

This one is a good activity if you are usually stressed. Squeeze any soft object which fits inside your hand for more than ten minutes. Repeat twice or thrice in a day. You can use a stress ball or slime or putty.

Downward wrist stretch

Extend one of your arms in front of you without bending, hold the palm with the other hand. Push your hand down using the other hand, also push it a bit on the side. Keep going until you feel your arm stretching. Stay like that for about thirty seconds, then let go and relax. Do sets of two or three, twice or thrice daily.

Wrist curl (palm up, palm down)

On a table in front of you, spread your forearm across it in a supine position. Hold a weight in your palm and pull the weight plus wrist back towards yourself with the other hand’s help. In five seconds, gradually relax the wrist back to the table. Repeat but with your palms facing the ground. Do this thirty times in three sets, each set of ten.

Elbow curls (palm up, palm down)

Get into a step position with one of your feet behind the other. Using an exercise band, place one end of it beneath the foot on the back. Use your hand to hang on to the other end of the band. Bring the band towards your shoulders by curling your arms. Dumbells or barbells can be of use as an alternative to an exercise band. Do three sets of ten each for palm in supination and palm in pronation.

Forearm pull (optional)

Stand up and slightly squat your knees. With your arms beside your body, use your forearms to hold a weight bar in front of your shoulders. Move the weight bar in an upward and downward motion using only your forearms. Do three sets of ten.

Forearm twist (optional)

While giving support to your forearms, sit down and grasp a hammer with your palms facing downwards. Start slowly rotating your forearm up and down as far as possible until you feel pain. If the rotation causes pain try by moving your hand closer to the top of the hammer. You can also exercise with a single-sided dumbbell. Continue for three sets of ten.

Wrist turn

Flex your elbow at a ninety degrees angle and keep your palm facing up. Slowly rotate the wrist to face the ground. Relax after staying like that for five seconds. Do three sets of ten. To increase hardness level, hold a lightweight in your hand like a filled water bottle.

Wrist lift (palm down)

At a ninety-degree angle, bend your elbow, in your hand, hold a tin of beans with your palm facing down. Flex your wrist toward the body, then slowly and gradually let go. Repeat in three sets of 15 two times in a day. This exercise is beneficial so continue for three months.

Wrist lift (palm up)

At a ninety-degree angle, bend your elbow, in your hand, hold a tin of beans with your palm facing the ceiling. Flex your wrist toward the body, then slowly and gradually let go. Repeat in three sets of 15 two times in a day. This exercise is beneficial so continue for three months.

Elbow bend

Stand with your back completely straight with your arms lowered to the side of your body.

Flex your elbow slowly and touch your shoulder with your palm for fifteen to thirteen seconds. Do this ten times; you can even add some weight to work on your arm muscles.

Palm lift

Position your hands on the surface of a table, then bring up your fingers. Now position the other hand by interlocking between the knuckles at a 90-degree angle. Push down on the hand below as it tries to lift. Your arm muscles will tighten. Repeat by switching hands.

Wrist flex

Carefully fold your wrist downwards by holding your hand extended in front, with your palm staring down. Push the stretched hand back to the body with the other hand while holding for 15-30 seconds. Keep your wrist straight. Bend the extending hand back slowly and draw the fingers back using the opposite hand. Stay like that for fifteen to thirty seconds. Perform three such sets with both hands. This exercise will help you if you have a tennis elbow. For a golfer’s elbow, it is better, to begin with, your palm facing upwards.

In this video you will get a clear idea about how to perform some of these exercises.

How do you heal tennis elbow fast?

Most of the time, a tennis elbow heals without assistance. Your elbow needs some time off as you try to heal it. Below are the treatments that can come in use.

  • Putting ice on the hurt elbow for half an hour will help to soothe the pain and lower the inflammation. Do this after a break of three to four hours for at least two days to relieve pain.
  • Wear an elbow cast or strap for support and protection from any other stress on the tendons.
  • Medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin can be used to reduce pain plus inflammation. On the contrary, such medicines have a lot of side effects, such as blisters or bleeding. They should be taken with precaution.
  • After swelling settles down, the next step is to start physiotherapy but do slow cautionary exercises to gain strength. Take a green signal from the doctor before you start your exercises.
Fist clench

If your gripping power is not strong, it is a sign of tennis elbow. You can improve this condition by working on the muscles of the forearm. This will aid in doing everyday tasks.

What do you need: A table and a towel

Muscles exerted: long flexor tendons of the fingers and thumb

Hold a rolled towel or a soft object in your hand as your forearm is placed on the table. Compress the towel or object for ten seconds. After releasing, repeat the exercise ten times. Swap hands and repeat.

Supination with a dumbbell

If your gripping power is not strong, it is a sign of tennis elbow. You can improve this condition by working on the muscles of the forearm. This will aid in doing everyday tasks.

What do you need: A table and a towel

Muscles exerted: long flexor tendons of the fingers and thumb

Hold a rolled towel or a soft object in your hand as your forearm is placed on the table. Compress the towel or object for ten seconds. After releasing, repeat the exercise ten times. Swap hands and repeat.

Wrist extension

Wrist extensor muscles bend the wrist. The muscles attach to the elbow are usually overworked, mainly if you play racquet sports.

What do you need: A table and a 2-pound dumbbell

Muscles exerted: wrist extensors

While sitting on a chair, hold a two-pound dumbbell in your hand vertically as your elbow is placed above your knee. The palm of your hand must be facing down. Stretch your wrist by moving it towards your body. If this is uncomfortable or causes pain, do it without the dumbbell. Do these ten times with each hand. Try only to move the lower arm

Wrist flexion

Wrist flexors do the job opposite of the wrist extensors. They are also overworked at times, causing pain and swelling.

What do you need: A table and a 2-pound dumbbell.

Muscles exerted: wrist flexors

While sitting on a chair, hold a two-pound dumbbell in your hand vertically as your elbow is placed above your knee. Let the palm keep on facing up, bend your wrist by bringing it towards yourself. Do this ten times with each hand. Try only to move the lower arm

Towel twist

What do we need: hand towel

Muscles exerted: wrist extensors, wrist flexors

Grasp a towel in both of your hands and sit on a chair. Do not stiffen up your shoulders. Coil the towel by rotating your arms in opposite directions. Perform the exercise ten times, then switch the directions of the hands and perform ten times again

Here are some simple exercises to self-treat Tennis Elbow at home.

How long does Tennis Elbow take to heal?

Tennis Elbow is essentially a self-limiting condition. Hence, it eventually heals without any treatment. However, it may last for several weeks or even months because tendons generally heal much slowly. In some cases, it can take at least one year for the patient to fully recover.

There are some treatments available to alleviate the pain of Tennis Elbow. The most important one is giving your injured arm maximum rest and avoiding all those activities that caused the injury.

You can use a cold compress. To create one, wrap a bag of frozen peas in a towel and place it against your injured elbow. Keep it placed for a few minutes several times in a day. It will help in easing the pain.

Then there are invasive treatments like surgery, which should be considered only when the Tennis Elbow is severe and persistent, and all non-surgical methods have proven useless. If you feel that the symptoms aren’t improving even after 6 to 8 weeks of home treatment, you can consider getting a shot of corticosteroid. This would help you obtain short-term relief, and then you can start rehab exercises. In the long term, corticosteroid shot cannot help you much, and you may need surgical treatment for curing Tennis Elbow.

Eccentric exercises are effective in managing tendinopathies in various regions of our body. For your information, Tennis Elbow is a common type of tendinopathy. Home-based eccentric exercises have shown immense promise for patients having lateral epicondylitis.

Traditional treatments for LE include electrical and thermal modalities, therapeutic exercise, cross friction massage, and bracing. But, these treatments may not be as effective as therapeutic eccentric exercise (TEE). It can treat a variety of tendinopathies such as shoulder impingement, Achilles tendinosis, and patellar tendinopathy.

Furthermore, eccentric exercises can provide neuromuscular benefits via central adaptation of both antagonist and agonist muscles. That’s why TEE offers a functional and structural advantage in tendinopathy rehabilitation.  Some LE patients display low pain pressure thresholds and higher referred pain patterns that would normally occur. That’s solely because of the presence of trigger points, suggesting a central nervous system pain mediation.

Do I Need Physical Therapy for Tennis Elbow?

The primary objective of undergoing any form of treatment or therapy is to enhance the flexibility and strength of your forearm muscles so that Tennis Elbow doesn’t bother you again. Your physical therapist is most likely to suggest changes in your tennis strokes or activities that cause elbow issues.

Physical therapy is beneficial in improving the flow of blood to the tendons and speeds up the healing process as well. When you feel that the pain has  lowered considerably, you can move on to flexibility enhancing exercises. How long it takes you to get better entirely depends upon the symptoms’ severity. You may have to wait for up to 8 weeks to see results.

Here are a few more exercises to help you heal faster. However, it would be best if you took it only as a guideline. Always remember to follow the advice of your therapist and listen to your body. If you think that 10 reps are too strenuous for you, start with five reps initially. Likewise, if doing them every day hurts you, try them on alternate days.

Mobilize Stretch

Quite often muscle knots or muscle trigger points are a fundamental factor in Tennis Elbow. Through rhythmic stretching, you can effectively stimulate affected muscle groups. Try the following exercise:

Sitting on the edge of a strong bench or chair, place your hands with palm side down and fingers pointing backwards. Leaning into this position, increase the intensity just slightly. Now change the position and lay at the back of your hands down and fingers are pointing backwards. Lean in the same place until you feel comfortable enough.

Forearm strengthening:

Take a one-pound dumbbell or a hammer and take a seat. Support your forearm on the edge of the table or your thigh. Do it in a way that it hangs over the edge. Now grab the dumbbell bottom, not from the middle side. Slowly start turning your hand so that your palm faces upwards. Ensure that you only move your forearm and not the elbow. Slowly turn the palm to the ground. Ideally, this should be repeated ten times, but it depends upon how much your body can take. You can do it once or twice in a day or even more if it is possible. You may also do 20 reps instead of 10.

Check out this video to learn more about easy Tennis Elbow exercises.

Eccentric and concentric exercises:

Begin with a one or 2-pound dumbbell, take a seat beside a table. The table should have an edge.

Bend your elbow at 90 degrees. Your palm should face the floor. Now lower and raise the weight slowly. In the beginning, you will find this exercise a bit painful but keep raising and lowering the wright at least ten times or until your hand cannot move anymore. After you find it convenient to do 10 reps, increase the weight by 1 or 2 lbs. do it at least once in a day for around three months. You will notice an improvement from the 6th week.

Isometric Contractions:

Some patient experiencing Tennis Elbow find it useful to perform this stretching technique. That’s because it effectively puts tendon under tension. Here’s what you need to do to perform this exercise.

Firmly hold your hand in a neutral position. Use your other, and for supporting it. Now bend your wrist backwards. Begin with medium intensity and perform stretching for about a minute and then keep adjusting the intensity and duration to identify what suits you best.

In this video you will get a comparative analysis of Isometric, Concentric, and Eccentric exercises to help you make up your mind.

Final Thoughts:

Stretching and strengthening exercises can offer relief from Tennis Elbow symptoms, but you need loads of perseverance and patience. The exercises mentioned above can be performed easily at home, and you can conveniently fit them into your daily life. You don’t need any high-end equipment to perform these simple stretching routines. In most cases, the symptoms usually vanish within a year without undergoing any specialized treatment. To treat them sooner, you can rely on eccentric exercises, which stretch and strengthen the forearm’s extensor muscles. These muscles you use when performing actions like hitting a tennis ball using a backhand stroke or fixing screws. If you are still confused, consult your physiotherapist or physician to understand which exercises will work for you.