• Eric Lau

Tennis Elbow: Early Signs, Treatments, and Exercises  


Tennis elbow is a common injury that is usually caused by overusing your forearms due to strenuous activities, such as gripping with your hands. Tiny tears and inflammation can develop around the outside of your elbow if the muscles in your forearm are strained for too long. Tennis elbow can be quite painful, so let’s take a look at what it is, the signs and symptoms of this condition, and also what can be done to treat tennis elbow.


Tennis player grimacing in pain as he rubs his elbow

What is it?


Tennis elbow is the general inflammation or micro-tearing of the forearm tendons that are connected to the outside of the elbow. This condition is otherwise known as “Lateral Epicondylitis”. As the forearm muscles and tendons become more and more damaged from repetitive motions and overuse, the elbow becomes tender and sore. Tennis elbow can be quite debilitating and if the condition continues without treatment, there can be loss of motion and function of the elbow and hand can develop.


What are the signs and symptoms?


Some of the early signs and symptoms of Tennis Elbow are the following:

  • Tenderness near the outside of the elbow

  • Elbow pain that gets worse with grasping or holding objects

  • Achiness and soreness of the forearm muscles

  • Stiffness of the elbow especially in the morning

How is it treated?


Since this is a forearm muscle and tendon issue your physiotherapist will use soft tissue treatments. Your physiotherapist will massage the front and back of the forearm to release tension from the muscle and tendon. Active release treatments would also be used to stretch the forearm, release trigger points, and break down scar tissue along the tendon. Acupuncture will be useful to decrease pain and increase blood flow to the elbow to encourage the body to naturally heal. A tennis elbow brace will also be very helpful to relieve pressure in your elbow to allow your elbow to heal.


Sometimes compression of nerves in the neck can cause pain in the elbow. A skilled physiotherapist would be able to determine if this the cause of your elbow pain. If nerve compression in your neck is the cause of your elbow pain then stretching and massaging the muscles and joints in your neck will be the correct course of treatment.


Common home exercises:

Wrist extensor stretch:


With your elbow straight face your palm toward the ground. Close your fist and bend your hand downward to stretch the back of your forearm. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets.


stretching the back of the forearm

Eccentric wrist extension:


Hold onto a band/weight with your hand and rest your elbow on the armrest of the couch/table with the palm facing the floor. Hold the band or weight up then slowly lower your hand downwards for a count of 3 seconds. Use your opposite hand to help you lift the band/weight back up. Perform this exercise for 8-15 reps x 3 sets.


using a dumbbell to eccentrically strengthen the back of the forearm

Wrist pronation/supination:


With your elbow resting by your side, hold onto a frying pan/pot. Turn your wrist over like if you were turning a key. Perform this exercise for 8-15 reps x 3 sets.


Gripping:


Grip a full heavy water bottle with a pinch grip by holding onto the cap of the water bottle with your elbows straight. Hold the water bottle out in front of you for 10-30 seconds x 3 sets.


holding onto a full heavy water bottle to strengthen the forearm

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