Physio-Recommended Tennis Elbow Exercises

Tennis elbow, known medically as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that results from overuse of the forearm muscles and tendons, leading to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.

Despite its name, tennis elbow doesn’t only affect athletes; it’s common among individuals who currently or have previously had jobs requiring repetitive wrist and arm motions, such as using machinery or even writing. In this article, we will explore the pivotal role targeted exercises can have in the management and rehabilitation of tennis elbow.

If you are looking to alleviate pain and restore functionality, read on to discover some exercises you can start right now to begin your journey to recovery.

Essential Tennis Elbow Exercises (As Recommended By Our Physiotherapists)

Managing tennis elbow involves a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises tailored to relieve pain and restore function. These exercises aim to gently condition the muscles and tendons around the elbow and forearm, promoting healing and preventing further injury.

Strengthening Exercises for Tennis Elbow

Wrist Extension

Purpose: Strengthens the extensor muscles of the forearm.

How to Do It:

  1. Sit with your forearm resting on a table, palm facing down, holding a light weight (e.g., a small dumbbell or a water bottle).
  2. Slowly lift the weight by extending your wrist upward, then lower it back down.
  3. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Wrist Curl

Purpose: Targets the flexor muscles, balancing muscle strength around the elbow.

How to Do It:

  1. Similar to the wrist extension, sit with your forearm resting on a table, but with the palm facing up.
  2. Curl the weight towards your forearm, then slowly lower it.
  3. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Elbow Bend

Purpose: Helps maintain elbow mobility and strength.

How to Do It:

  1. Stand or sit with your arm at your side, holding a weight.
  2. Slowly bend your elbow to lift the weight towards your shoulder, then lower it.
  3. Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Stretching Exercises for Tennis Elbow

Wrist Flexor Stretch

Purpose: Increases flexibility in the forearm muscles, reducing tension.

How to Do It:

  1. Extend your arm in front of you with the palm up.
  2. Use your other hand to gently pull the fingers back toward your body until you feel a stretch.
  3. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Wrist Extensor Stretch

Purpose: Stretches the extensor muscles, alleviating tightness.

How to Do It:

  1. Extend your arm with the palm facing down.
  2. Gently pull the hand down towards the floor using your other hand until you feel a stretch.
  3. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Exercises for the Upper Body with Tennis Elbow

Engaging in upper body exercises when you have tennis elbow requires caution to avoid exacerbating the condition. Focus on low-impact, controlled movements that do not strain the affected area.

Upper Body Exercises Safe for Tennis Elbow

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Purpose: Strengthens the upper back and shoulders without putting stress on the elbow.

How to Do It:

  1. Sit or stand with your back straight.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, holding for 5 seconds.
  3. Release and repeat for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Isometric Shoulder Exercises

Purpose: Strengthens the shoulder without involving elbow movement.

How to Do It:

  1. Stand facing a wall with your arm slightly bent.
  2. Push your fist against the wall without moving your arm. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  3. Repeat on both sides for 2-3 sets.

Weight Lifting and Tennis Elbow: What You Need to Know

When dealing with tennis elbow, modifying your weight-lifting routine is crucial to prevent further injury. Opt for lighter weights and higher repetitions, focusing on exercises that do not exacerbate elbow pain.

Modified Bicep Curls

Purpose: Strengthens the biceps with minimal stress on the elbow.

How to Do It:

  1. Use a light weight and perform curls with a slow, controlled motion.
  2. Keep your elbow close to your body to reduce strain.
  3. Aim for 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions with light weights.

Forearm Plank

Purpose: Strengthens the core and arms without direct pressure on the elbows.

How to Do It:

  1. Begin in a push-up position but rest on your forearms instead of your hands.
  2. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels, holding the position for 20-30 seconds.
  3. Aim to perform 2-3 sets, increasing the duration as you become stronger.

Conclusion and When to Seek Professional Help

Tennis elbow, while common, can significantly impact your daily life, making even simple tasks challenging. The exercises outlined in this blog are designed to help manage pain, improve strength, and enhance flexibility in the affected area. Remember, consistency is key to seeing improvement, but so is listening to your body. If an exercise causes pain, stop and consult a professional.

Seeking the advice of a physiotherapist is crucial in cases where self-managed exercises do not lead to improvement. A physiotherapist can provide a comprehensive assessment, tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs, and guide you through more advanced techniques if necessary.

Our clinic is dedicated to helping individuals recover from tennis elbow with personalised tennis elbow physiotherapy treatment, tailored exercises and expert care using modern technology such as Laser Therapy.

If you’re struggling with tennis elbow, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. Recovery is not just about managing pain but regaining your ability to perform daily activities without discomfort.

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The Author

Lewis Payne

Lewis graduated from The University of Nottingham in 2013 with a First Class Honours in Physiotherapy, worked as Sheffield F.C.’s first team Physiotherapist, and now runs a leading-edge private clinic in Sheffield. With over ten years of experience, he specialises in manual therapy, advanced technological treatments, and exercise-based approaches, focusing on spinal and joint conditions, sports injuries, and specifically complex spinal issues like disc pathology and scoliosis. Lewis leads in IDD Therapy, performing over 6000 treatments, offers MRI referrals and reviews, and employs a holistic treatment philosophy viewing the body as a Tensegrity structure. He excels in postural analysis, soft tissue release techniques, and prescribes biomechanical corrective exercises to enhance natural movement.