If you suffer from tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, you know all too well the painful condition that causes tenderness on the outer side of your elbow. While the name implies that you injured yourself while playing a mean game of tennis, in reality, most cases of tennis elbow develop as a consequence of other repetitive activities of the forearm, hand and wrist, such as typing, golf, knitting or even carrying heavy items. The good news is that there are some steps you can take to minimize the pain, and some exercises you can do to help you heal so you can resume your normal routine faster.
Treating Tennis Elbow:
- Take anti-inflammatory medications to lessen the discomfort.
- Begin doing exercises as soon as possible after the onset of the injury under the guidance of a physical therapist.
- Understand that the exercise treatment is a progressive process as you build up the strength.
- Follow the following three exercise phases to help get yourself back to where you started.
Exercises for Tennis Elbow:
You will probably need to exercise your elbow for about four to six weeks to see some improvement, and your elbow may require six or more months to heal completely. Keep in mind, however, that tennis elbow can be a chronic condition. But doing strategic exercises for a few months can help strengthen your elbow and prevent the injury from happening again. Just be sure to progress slowly and let your body be your guide so you don't worsen the injury but help it to heal. Here is what the experts recommend:
- Phase I: Rest and begin the healing process.
- The first step is to rest the injury and allow recovery to begin. Avoid activities that make your elbow hurt or involve significant, repetitive elbow activity.
- Continue other activities that don't specifically bother your elbow, since blood flow to the affected area promotes healing.
- You can also reduce inflammation by using ice at this stage or as long as necessary.
- Keep your arm raised whenever possible to help reduce swelling.
- Phase II: Increase your flexibility and rebuild your strength.
- Once your elbow starts to feel better, adopt regular exercises to rebuild the strength in that area. Keep in mind that the length of time needed to heal the elbow varies from person to person.
- Engage in a stretching routine.
- Increase your range of motion by flexing your wrist, extending it and rotating it.
- Keep your arm straight while you stretch and hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat your stretches twice a day or more.
- Know your limits and be careful not to over-stretch your elbow.
- Begin some easy weightlifting. Use a light dumbbell and increase the weight as you build up strength. Also increase the repetitions per set, and the number of sets, over time. Work up to holding the positions for 15 seconds. Repeat the exercises two or three times up five times a day to enjoy full benefit.
- Phase III: Continue the recovery process, gradually resuming your regular activities.
- Continue the stretching and strength exercises.
- Focus on using the weights in a controlled fashion and improving your endurance over time.
- Gradually increase your activity level over a period of several weeks, but do so only as you feel able. If you feel like you are straining your elbow, slow down and give yourself time to heal.
- Even after you recover and resume sports, continue your warm-up, stretching and strengthening exercises to help prevent the injury from reoccurring.