Best Tennis Elbow Exercises & Stretches: Expert Guide

Tennis Elbow is common in people who play sports such as tennis and squash, but most people get it from other activities where you often have to grip and twist, such as turning a screwdriver.

Often, it gets better on its own with self-care such as rest, ice, and pain medicine. If that doesn’t work though, your doctor may suggest physical therapy.

We describe eight xercises to help strengthen muscles in the forearm and prevent tennis elbow from coming back. We also cover causes and symptoms, home treatment, prevention, and when to see a doctor.

Before trying these exercises, wait for any swelling to go down. It is also a good idea to check with a doctor or a physical or occupational therapist first.

Exercises

The following exercises can help rehabilitate tennis elbow:

1. Wrist turn

Wrist Turn

To perform a wrist turn:

  • Bend the elbow at a right angle
  • Extend the hand outwards, palm facing up
  • Twist the wrist around gradually, until the palm is facing down
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds
  • Repeat nine more times
  • Do two more sets of 10 repetitions

2. Wrist turn with weight

Wrist turn with weighT

The wrist turn with weight is the same as the wrist turn above. But, in this version, the person also grips a light weight, such as a small dumbbell or a tin of food.

3. Wrist lift, palm up

Wrist lift, palm up

To perform a wrist lift, palm up:

  • Grip a light weight, such as a small dumbbell or a tin of food
  • Bend the elbow at a right angle
  • Extend the hand outwards, palm facing up
  • Bend the wrist up towards the body
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds, then release slowly

4. Elbow bend

Elbow bend

To perform the elbow bend:

  • Stand straight
  • Lower the arm to one side
  • Slowly bend the arm upwards until the hand touches the shoulder
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds

5. Wrist extensor stretch

Wrist extensor stretch

To perform the wrist extensor stretch:

  • Raise the arm straight out in front of the body
  • With the palm facing down, slowly bend the wrist downwards
  • Using the other hand, gently pull the stretching hand back towards the body
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds
  • Straighten the wrist again
  • Repeat twice
  • Do two more sets of 3 repetitions

6. Wrist extensor flex

Wrist extensor flex 

To perform the wrist extensor flex:

  • Raise the arm straight out in front of the body
  • With the palm facing down, slowly bend the wrist upwards
  • Using the other hand, gently pull the fingers back towards the body
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds
  • Straighten the wrist again
  • Repeat twice
  • Do two more sets of 3 repetitions

7. Fist squeeze

Fist squeeze

To perform the fist squeeze:

  • Use a rolled-up towel, sock, or tennis ball and place in the palm
  • Grip the ball or towel with the fingers to form a fist
  • Squeeze tightly for 10 seconds
  • Repeat nine more times

8. Towel twist

Towel twist

To perform the towel twist:

  • Hold a loosely rolled-up towel lengthways, with one hand at each end
  • Keep the shoulders relaxed
  • Twist the towel by moving the hands in opposite directions, as if wringing out water
  • Repeat nine more times
  • Then repeat ten more times twisting the towel in the reverse direction

Causes and symptoms

People call this condition tennis elbow because it strains the muscles and tendons that a person uses to grip a tennis racket. However, most cases of tennis elbow are not due to playing tennis or any other sport. Any activity that involves a gripping and twisting motion can cause this strain.

Tennis elbow usually occurs because of repetitive activity. Carpenters, painters, and plumbers are particularly susceptible.

Symptoms of tennis elbow vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. Typical symptoms include pain in the arm and tenderness around the elbow.

A person may notice swelling and a burning sensation around the elbow. They may find that their grip becomes weaker and may also feel pain further down the arm.

Continuation of the repetitive activity causing the strain can make it worse.

Home treatment

People with tennis elbow do not typically need to see a doctor. By stopping the repetitive activity and resting the arm, the pain usually eases within 2 weeks.

A person can treat tennis elbow at home by:

  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
  • Using an ice pack, heat pack, or hot water bottle on the affected area to soothe the pain
  • Learning how to protect the joints to avoid reoccurrence

Prevention

Ceasing or reducing repetitive activities and resting the arm can aid recovery. When resting is not possible, adjusting arm movements can help to ease symptoms. For example, a person can try keeping their palms flat and elbows bent when lifting.

Doing exercises designed for tennis elbow helps strengthen forearm muscles and improve function. People whose jobs involve a repetitive movement of the forearm should do these exercises to prevent tennis elbow returning.

Always consult a doctor before attempting exercises for tennis elbow. A doctor can make sure that the exercises will not affect any underlying conditions or injuries.

If exercising the forearms seems to worsen symptoms of tennis elbow, a person can try:

  • Resting the arm for longer
  • Using an ice pack on the arm to help reduce inflammation
  • Taking OTC medication, such as ibuprofen, for the relief of pain and inflammation
  • Speaking to a doctor or physical therapist to make sure they are doing the exercises properly.
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio
Dr Rohit Bhaskar, Physio Dr. Rohit Bhaskar, Physio is Founder of Bhaskar Health and Physiotherapy and is also a consulting physiotherapist. He completed his Graduation in Physiotherapy from Uttar Pradesh University of Medical Sciences. His clinical interests are in Chest Physiotherapy, stroke rehab, parkinson’s and head injury rehab. Bhaskar Health is dedicated to readers, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Bhaskar Health audience is the reason I feel so passionate about this project, so thanks for reading and sharing Bhaskar Health.

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