Four Exercises To Help You Beat Tennis Elbow
Do you have pain and tenderness in the outside of your elbow? Does this pain make it difficult to make a fist or grip objects, as well as to straighten your wrist? If so, you're likely suffering from tennis elbow, a condition in which the tendons that connect your lower arm muscles to the bone become inflamed. No, you don't have to be a tennis player in order to suffer from tennis elbow. It's also common in people who weight lift, knit, type, or partake in other repetitive activities involving the lower arms.
Mild cases of tennis elbow will usually heal on their own. If you catch the condition early, you should be able to heal by simply taking some time away from the repetitive activity that caused it, and by performing some physical therapy exercises to strengthen the involved tendons and muscles. Here are four simple exercises to include in your routine every day.
Eccentric Wrist Curls
This exercise will help strengthen the extensor tendon, which is the main tendon that becomes irritated in tennis elbow. Sit in a chair with an armrest. Grasp a small dumbbell (start with 1 or 2 pounds) with your hand. Stretch your forearm out along the armrest with the palm of your hand facing downward and dangling off the end of the arm rest. Then, let your wrist drop -- the weight should come towards your body. Lift and extend your wrist so that it is straight, and hold it in this position for 10 seconds before lowering it back down. Make sure you're keeping your forearm still the entire time. Repeat for a total of 10 repetitions with each hand. As you adapt to this exercise, you can add a few more reps or increase the weight of the dumbbell to make it more challenging.
Flexor Wrist Curls
Whenever you work to strengthen a muscle, you must also work the opposing muscles to avoid creating an imbalance. This exercise is essentially the opposite of the one above. Sit in your arm chair with a dumbbell in your wrist and your forearm stretched out along the arm rest -- just as you did for the exercise above. Instead of positioning your arm so that the palm faces downward, position it with the palm facing upward. Let your wrist bend downward as far as possible, and then slowly curl the weight upwards, drawing your palm towards your body. Keep your forearm still. Hold this curled position for 10 seconds before uncurling your wrist. Repeat for a total of 10 repetitions with each arm. As with the exercise above, you can make this exercise more challenging by increasing your reps or weight.
This simple exercise will help you regain strength in the muscles of your lower arm so that you can grip firmly and with confidence again. All you need is a tennis ball or stress ball. Pick it up with your hand, and give it a good squeeze. Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, and then release. Try to do at least 10 squeezes with each hand,and build to 20 as you regain your strength.
Drawing the Sword
This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in your shoulder and back. When these muscles are strong, they will take more of the brunt of your movements, so the muscles in your lower arm do not have to. This should help prevent you from developing tennis elbow again in the future. Stand with your feet together. Grab an elastic band and loop it under both feet. Hold the other end directly in front of you with your right hand. Then, move your hand up into the air, above your head, in one swift motion as if you were drawing a sword. Perform a total of 10 repetitions with each hand. You can make this exercise harder by switching to a tighter band.
If your tennis elbow symptoms do not improve within a week or so of performing these exercises, it's time to seek professional care. Seek out a physical therapist or a chiropractor who specializes in sports medicine. He or she can evaluate your condition and identify weaknesses and imbalances in certain muscles and tendons. Based on the results of the evaluation, you will be shown specific exercises to help ease your pain and reduce your chances of developing tennis elbow again in the future.