4 exercises for tennis elbow pain that you should not skip - Be My Healer

4 must-do exercises for tennis elbow pain recommended by a physical therapist

tennis elbow exercises stress ball

Maybe this is your first taste of tennis elbow pain. Maybe you have been battling tennis elbow pain for months or years. [Check tennis elbow symptoms here...]

Why is it so hard to rid of this pain? The answer is that we continuously re-injure it with repetitive hand activities. For many of us, our livelihood depends on it. That's why stretches and exercises for tennis elbow are crucial to tennis elbow recovery and prevention, especially if you have a high risk job.

Repetitive injury, like the tennis elbow condition, occur due to the gap between the muscle's strength and the activity's physical demand.​ Our muscles sustain microtraumas under the pressure to perform beyond their ability. Proper targeted exercise will improve your muscle power, endurance and flexibility. Stronger muscles will be able to handle your work like a piece of cake. No stress. No injury. No pain.

Forearm stretches

There is no exercise as important as these stretches to help you get over tennis elbow pain faster. Even more importantly, like healthy eating, these stretches should become part of your habit to prevent tennis elbow from recurring, especially if you have a high risk job.

Perform the forearm stretches DURING your hand and wrist activities every 20-30 minutes to prevent muscle spasms and allow blood flow into the muscle tissue.​

wrist flexor and extensor stretch

Wrist extensor stretch

  • Keep your affected arm stretched, palm down.
  • Use your opposite hand to curl 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 stretched, palm up.
  • Use your opposite hand to bend your wrist back 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.

4-way wrist exercise for tennis elbow

The 4 way wrist exercise is a general free weight exercise for wrist strengthening. If your pain is severe, you can start with no weight at all. Normally, a dumbbell weight 1-3 lbs will work great for this exercise. You can also use cans and bottles from your kitchen. 

4-way wrist exercise for tennis elbow

  • Support your forearm on a table or armrest so that your wrist and hand can hang off the edge

Way one

wrist extension exercise

Image source: hep2go.com

  • Hold your weight with palm facing down
  • Pull your wrist up as far as you can, and slowly return it back down
  • Repeat 10-20 times

Way two

Radial deviation exercise

Image source: hep2go.com

  • Hold your weight with thumb facing up
  • Tilt your wrist up as far as you can, and slowly return it back down
  • Repeat 10-20 times

Way three

wrist flexion exercise

Image source: hep2go.com

  • Hold your weight with palm facing up
  • Curl your wrist up as far as you can, and slowly return it back down
  • Repeat 10-20 times

Way four

forearm rotation exercise

Image source: hep2go.com

  • Hold a hammer by the end of bandle with thumb facing up
  • Slowly rotate your wrist to let the head of hammer down to either side and slowly bring it back up to straight
  • Repeat 10-20 times

Note: If you experience elbow pain towards the end of each motion, exercise only in your painfree range of motion.

Note: If you do not experience any muscle fatigue after 20 repetitions of each movement, you should increase the weight in your hand.

Functional Gripping and pinching exercise for tennis elbow

​Gripping and pinching exercises can be done with a stress ball.

Stress ball grip exercise

functional gripping exercise

Image source: hep2go.com

  • Hold the stress ball in your palm
  • Slowly squeeze into it in a graded manner (no fast power grip please), using your entire palm and all of your fingers
  • Hold the tightest pain free grip for 3-5 seconds and then slowly relax
  • Repeat 10 times

Stress ball pinch exercise

functional pinch exercise

Image source: hep2go.com

  • Hold the stress ball between your thumb and fingertips (you can exercise each finger separately or together), making sure all the joints on your fingers are slightly bent (not locked out straight)
  • Slowly pinch your fingers together and hold your maximum pain free pinch for 3-5 seconds then slowly relax
  • Repeat 10 times

The disadvantage of using a stress ball is that it limits the effectiveness of the exercise after a while due to its poor resistance. If your sport activity or work duty requires a significant amount of gripping or pinching power, your muscle weakness will likely invite tennis elbow pain back in the future.

Following are some great tools I personally recommend. They are made specifically for hand exercise​s.

Therapy putty

Therapy putty are a lot of occupational therapist's favorite. It normally comes in 4 colors of different resistance. You can squeeze it, pinch it, pull it apart, and shape it. It is not messy or smelly. 

The putty is a fun way to strengthen your fingers and hand, and is suitable to play with for most ages. I simply wish that the putty would have a fruity smell to match its flashy colors.

Hand exercise balls

These gel balls are great alternatives for stress balls. They provide comfortable resistance for gripping and pinching exercises. You can keep them in your office or purse.

Some companies will issue these balls to employee for free to encourage them to exercise their hands muscles and release stress.

Hand exercise rings

These silicone rings provide comfortable grips and different levels of resistance.

I personally think these are highly fashionable. You can hook it to your keychain and play with it on the go. It is also a great conversation starter in your yoga class (Tell me if I'm wrong).

A new exercise for tennis elbow that works - research based exercise

This exercise is introduced by a study done by Phil Page, published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy in 2010.

In this study, 22 patients with similar tennis elbow condition was randomly divided into two groups. Patients from the control group performed only standard exercises, while the patient in the other group was instructed to exercise with Flexbar.

After 7 weeks, the patients who exercised with Flexbar had significantly better results than the patients from control group (improved pain by 81% vs 22% in the control group). The study also showed improvement in patient's' strength in two groups 79% vs 15%.

Here are the exercise instructions for the Tyler's Twist using FlexBar.​

Tyler's Twist 

flexbar tyler twist exercise
  • A. Hold FlexBar® in hand on the side with the tennis elbow condition (right in picture) with wrist extended back all the way (max wrist extension)
  • B. Grab other end of FlexBar® with the other (left) hand, palm facing away from you
  • C. Twist FlexBar® with left(non-painful side) hand by curling the wrist while holding the painful side wrist in extension
  • D. Bring arms in front of body with elbows in straightened out while maintaining both wrist position on FlexBar®, then Slowly allow FlexBar® to ‘untwist’
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 each day

These are the 4 exercises I highly recommend for those suffering from tennis elbow pain. 

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

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