Are you looking for the best tennis elbow exercises to do at home? If you have been suffering from tennis elbow for more than 2 weeks then you will benefit from reading this article in which we discuss what it is, the causes, and the potential treatments of tennis elbow. We cover easy things for the management of tennis elbow exercises at home.
What are tennis elbow exercises at home?
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Despite its name, athletes aren’t the only people who develop tennis elbow. People whose jobs feature the types of motions that can lead to tennis elbow include plumbers, painters, carpenters, and butchers.
The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow called your lateral epicondyle. Pain can also spread to your forearm and wrist this is a common feature of tennis elbow, but the pain may be completely local. People present with different types of tennis elbow and some people even have been misdiagnosed as having tennis elbow when they have other things going on. Reading this article will help you understand the common features of tennis elbow so you can understand more about this condition and how it affects your daily life. You may want to visit us for a more detailed approach to looking at your tennis elbow with one of our specialists.
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is usually caused when the muscles and tendons become damaged this does not happen only from playing tennis as you may think. This can happen if you’re repeating the same motion over and over again. It can also happen if other muscles in your arm are weak, or if you’re using the wrong technique for the task you’re performing.
If you play a racquet sport, such as tennis or badminton, it can cause tennis elbow. But you may be surprised to know that most people who get tennis elbow don’t play tennis. The most common cause of tennis elbow is doing activities where you’re repeatedly and forcefully gripping and twisting your wrist. For example, you’re more likely to develop the condition if you’re a plumber, bricklayer, painter, decorator, or gardener. Carrying heavy loads can also cause tennis elbow. If you spend more than 20 hours at a computer each week (especially for many years), you’re also more likely to get tennis elbow. This is because these activities can cause minute tears in your arm muscles and tendons and inflammation.
How common is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is a common musculoskeletal condition. It’s estimated that as many as one in three people have tennis elbow at any given time. Each year in the UK, about five in every 1,000 people go to see their GP about tennis elbow. The condition usually affects adults and is more common in people who are 40-60 years of age. Men and women are equally affected.
Symptoms of tennis elbow
The most common symptom is pain and tenderness on the outside of your elbow and in the muscles of your forearm. Your symptoms may develop gradually over time and you may not be able to link them to any particular event or injury. They may come one to three days after you carried out the activity that caused the problem. The pain can vary from mild discomfort to severe pain that can stop you from holding a cup, for example.
Your pain may get worse when you grip something, for example holding a cup or shaking someone’s hand firmly. It may also get worse when you bend your wrist backward against a force, for example when using a screwdriver or doing backhand in tennis. You may also find that you have a weak grip and a stiff elbow. Many people with mild symptoms of tennis elbow find that their pain eases with rest and self-help treatments. If your symptoms don’t improve after a couple of weeks, see your physiotherapist or GP for advice. If you have severe elbow pain, can’t move your elbow or have a loss of feeling, contact your GP straight away.
Your Physiotherapist/Sports therapist or GP will ask you about your symptoms and examine you. He or she may ask about your medical history, hobbies, and work. They’ll usually be able to diagnose tennis elbow by examining your arm and asking how your symptoms developed and what makes them worse.
Your condition is likely to settle down, so you probably won’t need further tests. If your doctor refers you to a specialist, they may ask you to have some imaging tests such as an ultrasound scan. Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce an image of the inside of the body. You may also have other tests, such as an X-ray, to rule out other causes of your pain, such as a broken bone.
Tennis elbow treatment and tennis elbow exercises at home
At first, you should stop any heavy loading activities or sports (such as lifting and gripping). As pain improves, you can restart exercise as your pain allows. It is thought that complete rest if it is prolonged, can actually be worse for the injury. Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help to relieve pain.
Ibuprofen is from a group of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, you should not use ibuprofen or other NSAIDs for more than 7-14 days if you have Tennis elbow. This is because they may possibly reduce the ability of the tendon to heal in the long term. They may also cause symptoms of Tennis elbow to be masked, or covered up, which again may delay healing.
Ice packs Ice treatment may be useful for pain control and may help to reduce swelling in the early stages of Tennis elbow. An ice pack should be applied for 10-30 minutes. Less than 10 minutes has little effect. More than 30 minutes may damage the skin. Make an ice pack by wrapping ice cubes in a plastic bag or towel. (Do not put ice directly next to skin, as it may cause ice burn)
Using a splint called an epicondylitis clasp may relieve the strain when you’re doing activities that cause flare-ups. They put pressure on the muscle, which alters tension where the muscle is attached to the tendon. They’re available from chemists, sports shops, and physiotherapists. At Perfect Balance Clinic, we can help you with fitting you with an epicondylitis clasp.
Exercise Rehabilitation for tennis elbow exercises at home
Following a thorough assessment of your elbow, arm, and neck, your physiotherapist will discuss the best strategy for you to use based on your symptoms and your lifestyle. Results are typically measured through patient feedback and measurement of pain-free grip strength.
Physiotherapy / Sports therapy treatment can include gentle mobilisation of your neck and elbow joints, electrotherapy, elbow Kinesio taping, muscle stretches, neural mobilisations, massage, and strengthening.
Physiotherapy/Sports Therapy aims to achieve a:
- Reduction of elbow pain.
- Facilitation of tissue repair.
- Restoration of normal joint range of motion and function.
- Restoration of normal muscle length, strength, and movement patterns.
- Normalisation of your upper limb neurodynamics.
- Normalisation of cervical joint function.
What happens if initial treatment fails?
For most people, the symptoms of Tennis elbow usually clear within 3-6 months of starting conservative treatment, as described above. In general, the earlier the problem is recognised and treatment started, the better the outcome. If your symptoms have not improved after 3-6 months, your doctor may suggest that they refer you to a specialist or sports medicine practitioner. However, this timescale may change depending on your symptoms, your sporting activities, etc.
During this treatment, special sound waves are passed through your skin to the most painful spot on the injured site. At Perfect Balance Clinic, we can help you with arranging this type of ESWT treatment.
Injection using your own blood (PRP) It is possible for a specialist to take some of your own blood (in the usual way) and to inject this around your common extensor tendon. This is called autologous blood injection. The idea is that this will help to promote the healing of your damaged tendon by encouraging the growth of cells involved in the healing process.
Tennis elbow exercises at home
Managing the reactive stage If you have acute mild pain after an increase or change in training/workload, it’s likely you have reactive tendinopathy. Your initial aim is simply to calm it down and settle symptoms. The most important treatment is simply loaded management. Reduce the stress on the tendons to a level that the tendon can manage and the tendon may settle in as little as 5-10 days.
Anti-inflammatory medication- ibuprofen has been recommended for reactive tendinopathy. Although there may not be inflammation present it can help reduce the tendon’s reactive response and decrease tendon swelling. As with any medication consult your GP or pharmacist first.
The best exercises for tennis elbow exercises at home
Phase 1 (Mobility)
Hand and wrist tendon gliding fist for tennis elbow exercises at home
In standing or sitting, try to make a fist with your thumb outside of your fist.
Active wrist extension with finger extension for tennis elbow exercises at home
In sitting, place your elbow (palm down) over an edge of a table and try to move it up upwards. Makes your to move your fingers too.
Sitting, Passive forearm supination with another hand
In sitting, place your elbow by your side at 90 degrees (palm facing down). Use your opposite hand to turn the palm upwards facing the ceiling.
Standing stretch wrist supinators with elbow bent to 90 degrees
In standing, place your elbow by your side at 90 degrees (palm facing down). Now turn the palm upwards facing the ceiling.
Active ulnar and radial deviation, wrist supported on a table
In sitting, place your wrist on top of a table, where your elbow is bent at 90 degrees and by your side. Place the opposite hand on top of the wrist joint to stabilise it and then move the wrist from left to right, making sure to have a full palm contact with the table.
AROM wrist flexion-extension with elbow straight
In standing, lift your arm up in front of you to 90 degrees (make sure to keep the elbow straight). Now curl ur wrist upwards and downwards.
Seated AROM wrist radial deviation (gravity resisted)
In sitting, place your wrist over an edge of a table (make sure to place your elbow by your side at 90 degrees). Now move the wrist upwards and downwards.
Phase 2 (Early Strength) for tennis elbow exercises at home
Sitting, Forearm supination strengthening with elastic
In sitting, place your elbow by your side and bent at 90 degrees. Grip an elastic band with your hand (making sure the palm is facing down). Use your foot to anchor the other end of the elastic. Now turn your palm upwards, facing towards the ceiling.
Seated Radial deviation with elastic
In sitting, place your elbow by your side and bent at 90 degrees (the palm of your hand should be facing towards you/towards your body). Grip an elastic band with your hand (making sure the palm is facing down). Use your foot to anchor the other end of the elastic. Now move the wrist upwards and downwards whilst the palm is facing towards your body.
Seated Ulnar deviation with elastic
In sitting, place your elbow by your side and bent at 90 degrees (the palm of your hand should be facing towards you/towards your body). Grip an elastic band with your hand (making sure the palm is facing down). Use your opposite hand to anchor the other end of the elastic above your wrist. Now move the wrist upwards and downwards whilst the palm is facing towards your body.
Phase 3 (Strength)
Wrist pronation and supination strengthening with weight for tennis elbow exercises at home
In sitting, hold on to a light dumbbell/hammer/bottle of water. place your elbow by your side at 90 degrees (palm facing down). Now turn the palm upwards facing the ceiling.
Wrist extensors strengthening in pronation with stick and weight for tennis elbow exercises at home
In standing, place your elbows by your side bent at 90 degrees. Hold on to a stick/baseball bat with the affected hand with your palm facing down. Now rotate the stick so that when the end of the movement the palm will be facing upwards.
Phase 4 (Neuro-dynamics)
Radial nerve mobilization for tennis elbow exercises at home
In standing, Place your arm out by our side (palm facing towards the wall in front of). Then turn the palm all the way back so that the palm is facing the wall behind you. At the same time try to make a cup shape with your fingers and rotate your neck towards the opposite side.
For more information about tennis elbow exercises at home
If you would like additional information about Tennis Elbow or to discuss how we may be able to help with treating it, please contact us using the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.