5 effective actions to treat chronic elbow pain – from a physical therapist - Be My Healer
  • Home  / 
  • Body Pain
  •  /  5 effective actions to treat chronic elbow pain – from a physical therapist

5 effective actions to treat chronic overuse elbow pains

5 actions treat elbow pain

Do you have pain on the outer side or inner side of your elbow, costing your ability to work, cook or every time you need your hand to do something?

Today, we are address Tennis Elbow pain and Golfer’s Elbow pain.

You may think “Poor athletes. They must abuse their elbow all the time!”

There are some interesting misconceptions about these terminologies.

Misconception #1: Tennis players get tennis elbow and golfers get golfer’s elbow.

The truth is that anyone can get these two conditions. I have yet to meet a patient who has these two conditions, who are actually a tennis player or golfer.

The most common professions that I have treated for these elbow conditions are computer worker, production worker and new moms.

Misconception #2: You get elbow pain using your elbow a whole bunch

The muscles that contribute most to your elbow movement are you bicep and triceps muscles. Over use of these muscles causes shoulder and upper arm pain more often than elbow pain.

Elbow pain, however, are most often caused by repetitive use of wrist and hand. Typing (as what I am doing now), tool usage, crafting and constantly carrying weight (or infant) are all risks of developing elbow pain. Correcting the ergonomics of your wrist and hand activity may help your condition to a certain degree.

The medical name for Tennis Elbow (pain on the outside part of your elbow) is lateral epicondylitis, and medical name for Golfer’s elbow (pain on the inside part of your elbow) is medial epicondylitis. The names suggest that these pains are caused by inflammation of muscle tendon insertions into the bone parts of your elbow. These muscles are responsible for curling and extending your wrist. If you have developed one of these conditions, you are at risk for developing the other as well due to the way your body compensate for pain and injuries.

So, What Action to take now?

Action #1: Localized icing

Find an empty water bottle (the cheaper the better). Fill water to 1/3 of the bottle and breeze it up right. This way, you have an ice cube with a handle to hold it. Rub the iced portion of the water bottle over the painful spot in small circles for no more than 5 mins. The sensation you should fell at the spot may goes in the order of extreme cold, burning, aching and numbness. Check frequently for sensation on the spot. As soon as you no longer feel your own touch over that spot, you shoulder stop icing. Do not over it for you can get a ice burn.

bottle ice pack for pain

This localized icing technique works better than slamming a big ice pack over your entire elbow. It is more efficient in decreasing local inflammation, and less likely to cause your whole arm to go into spasm from the drastic temperature change.

Repeat 2-3 times per day for 3 days.

Action #2: Frequent stretching

wrist flexor and extensor stretch

Wrist extensor stretch:

  • Keep your arm stretch and palm down.
  • Use opposite hand to bend your wrist by pulling your hand down towards the floor.
  • Now you should feel the stretch on the outer side of your elbow and forearm.
  • Hold this position for 30-40 seconds. And I always recommend stretching both sides.

Wrist Flexor Stretch:

  • Keep your arm stretch and palm up.
  • Use opposite hand to bend your wrist by pulling your hand down towards the floor.
  • Now you should feel the stretch on the inner side of your elbow and forearm.
  • Hold this position for 30-40 seconds. And I always recommend stretching both sides.

Perform these two stretches every 30 mins to one hour while at work. Normally, you will forget unless you set your timer on that wonderful piece of technology in your pocket named smart phone. If you elbow pain is aggravated by work, you should make these stretches part of your work routine.

Action #3: wear brace to support your elbow.

Don’t’ mistake a brace for a sling. You shoulder DOT wear sling for elbow pain.

There are many tennis elbow brace on the market, and you can find one at any local drug store. However, I am an advocate for always testing out an idea before investing in props.

If you have Ace bandage at home, wrap up the top of your forearm to create compression to the muscle tendons. If you don’t have ace bandage or similar wraps, you can use winter socks and duct tape to achieve the similar purpose.

Wear this temporary brace for a day. If it helps with whatever you need to do without causing as much pain, we would say that you may really benefit from an elbow brace.

tennis elbow brace

In some cases, the elbow pain is so tender and sensitive, that a brace at this time would create more discomfort; you may need to wait a week or so to try again when the pain is improved with icing and stretching.

Action #4: Pressure and massage for the stiff forearm

I love recommending home massages. It’s like giving patients permission to be pampered. (And sometimes the guys will chuckle and say “yeah, like that’s going to happen.”)

Start by soaking your forearm in a bucket/sink full of warm to hot water based on preference, for 10 mins.

If you are getting massaged from a loved one, you shoulder suggest that he/she treat your forearm like a dough of bread, and they shoulder work it like a baker, with the pal of them hand, not finger tips. (This scenario can often turn out interesting)

If you are massaging yourself, the technique I recommend is Pressure and Release, or tennis ball.

Forearm triggerpoints

Image source: Santa Barbara Massage & Bodywork

Pressure and release

  • Support the painful arm on a firm surface like arm rest or table.
  • Use the base of the other hand to press down on the painful forearm, hold 30 secs and release.
  • Move up a spot or down a spot, and repeat the pressure and release until your whole forearm is soft and relaxed.

Tennis Ball technique:

  • Support the painful arm on a firm surface like arm rest or table.
  • Use a tennis ball with other hand to press down on the painful forearm, hold 30 secs and release.
  • Move up a spot or down a spot, and repeat the pressure and release until your whole forearm is soft and relaxed.

Massage yourself once a day for 3 days, then continue at twice per week.

Action #5: Exercise your wrist

No treatment plan solve your injury permanently without exercises involved

I will introduce my favorite wrist exercise of all time: wrist alphabet. Start this exercise with nothing heavier than a pen, then slowly progress to 1 lb dumbbell for a bottle of water as you get stronger.

wrist alphabet exercise
  • Support your forearm on your arm rest, couch pillow or a table with your wrist hang off the edge. The key is to not move your forearm, but your wrist only.
  • Then in the air, start drawing the alphabets with your hand. Make the letters as big as possible to maximize your wrist movements. You can write all in Caps, in cursives, or any mixture.
  • Finish all 24 alphabets, and then perform the stretches in Action #2. Repeat exercise until feel forearm tired.

Recommend doing this exercise after massage and before icing.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful.

Like what you just read? Share this post via our social media buttons! They are everywhere on this page!

Want to know more about treating our own pain with techniques from a physical therapist?Please subscribe to our newsletter!

Leave a comment: