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Special Conditions:
Tennis Elbow Exercises

Medical Term: Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Tennis Elbow is one of those frustrating areas of research for me that produces the same basic clinical recommendations while offering few if any "self-help" prevention exercises.  Basically, the recommendations are: RICE, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, injections, and bracing.  It was hard to find any exercise recommendations for this condition!  Being a student of Jack LaLanne, I find it hard to believe that our only options are drugs and clinical-type interventions!  This is one of the few areas on my website where I have posted information that seems gray to me--meaning I'm not convinced there isn't something better in terms of healing exercises for tennis elbow.  In order to get started with something positive, I have posted what seems to be generally recommended when I could find anything on tennis elbow exercises.  If you have something better--please let me know!  I'd be happy to review any exercise suggestions from physical therapists, sport medicine professionals, or individuals with tennis elbow. 

One thing is certain, if you have an extreme case of Tennis Elbow, you must NOT aggravate the condition by going too heavy with your exercises!  Pay careful attention to the recommendations below regarding how to start and how to add progressions.  Tennis Elbow can take up to six months to control inflammation--it can be a long and tedious process, so don't rush it.  Listen to your body, and don't do anything that makes the condition worse!

Root Cause:  Overstressed forearm extensor tendons.  It's usually called "overuse" of tendons, but this implies you shouldn't be using your forearm as much.  I prefer to see it as you haven't trained your forearm to safely handle the demands or requirements of your activities. 
*Special Note:
 With tennis, many times the condition is caused by poor racket technique or improper racquet selection--just cleaning up your form, etc. can improve the condition. 

Background:  Can also be caused by non-tennis activities as well.  Anything that stresses extensors like hammering, computer work, screwdriver use, etc. can cause elbow epicondylitis.  I've also had clients that modified worksite ergonomics and significantly reduced or even eliminated their pain.  Example, if you are pressing your elbow onto something hard like a lunch box or minimally padded armrest while driving, this might be causing some irritation.  Related to Tennis Elbow is Golf and Swimmer's Elbow.

Under Construction

Exercise pages or photos to be posted soon!

Flexibility/Mobility Exercises: Do not force the stretches!  These gentle static stretches should be held for 20-30 seconds.  Maximum recommendation I found was 5-10 times and twice per day.  However, I don't think people will do this many, so just do what you can fit in daily.  I would suggest doing each stretch 30 seconds twice per day.

Strength Exercises:  Be VERY careful as you begin strength exercises because you don't want to further aggravate your condition!  Generally, the starting weight recommendation is only 1 pound.  In my experience, some people need to start with NO additional weight beyond their own arm!  NISMAT recommends starting with 3 sets of 10 reps then working up to 15 rep sets "before" adding anymore weight.  I would suggest only progressing in one-pound increments to be on the safe side.  For those just starting that have a lot of pain, I would suggest only doing 1 set and then working up to 3 sets so you don't cause excess inflammation and undue pain, and if needed, forget the weights and just use arm only until you can do 3 sets of 15 reps without pain.

[Strength Photos To Be Posted]

  • Wrist Extension

  • Wrist Roll Up

  • Forearm Pronation/Supination

  • Finger Extension

  • Wrist Flexion:  I do NOT recommend flexion strength exercises because we are in wrist flexion too much already with computers, driving, etc.  Excessive flexion and tension in the wrists causes carpal tunnel problems; therefore, I can't recommend strength exercises designed to increase and tighten the wrists in flexed positions.

  • MARV Handles (Multi-Vector Training):  These special handles were created by a physical therapist for wrist/elbow rehabilitation.  The handle and tubing allows for constant resistant in multiple angles as compared to dumbbells that have more limitations.  My PT colleague told me his Tennis Elbow clients have done much better with the MARV Handles than traditional dumbbell exercises.  The MARV Kit comes complete with directions and three levels of resistance tubing.  Purchase MARV Elbow & Wrist Kit here.

Web Reference:  The NISMAT site below was the most helpful site I found for actual tennis elbow exercises.  This link also includes some diagrams and photos.

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(Updated 9.6.08)

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