5 Most Effective Exercises for Tennis Elbow, According to an Expert

If you’re unfamiliar with tennis elbow, you may be surprised to know that it doesn’t always have to do with playing tennis! We will get into that and more, but if you are familiar with the condition, you know that it can be quite uncomfortable. We spoke with an expert and have just what you need, which are five effective exercises for tennis elbow that’ll help soothe the pain. Keep reading to learn more.

What is tennis elbow?

woman doing physical therapy for tennis elbow
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Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM, the Director of Medical Content & Education at Ro and a member of our Medical Expert Board, tells us that lateral epicondylitis—aka tennis elbow—occurs when the tendons adjoined to the outer part of the elbow become inflamed. Dr. Bohl explains, “Tendons are the strong connective tissues that connect muscles to bones. Tennis elbow specifically has to do with the tendons of the extensor muscles in the forearm (the muscles that pull the wrist back and extend the fingers). These muscles connect to the outer boney protrusion of the humerus (the arm bone) at the elbow.”

When you overdo it with your arm and wrist, mostly by performing motions repetitively, you can end up with tennis elbow. The overly-done motion can cause inflamed tendons, and you will feel pain.

What causes tennis elbow?

Many individuals experience tennis elbow from playing the sport, but there are many things that involve repetitive arm and wrist motions that can also cause the condition. Examples are playing an instrument, working with tools, and even painting.

We will get to some helpful exercises in a moment, but it’s important to understand that tennis elbow is caused by overuse, so it’s important to rest. Note that it can take a few weeks to even months to recover from tennis elbow.

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What helps with tennis elbow pain?

woman squeezing stress ball exercises for tennis elbow
Shutterstock

To treat the condition, anti-inflammatory medications are helpful, as well as putting ice on the pained area. Some situations may warrant physical therapy.

Dr. Bohl tells us, “Once the inflammation has subsided and if a healthcare provider says it’s okay for you to start exercising again, you can—but let pain be your guide. Exercise can potentially make tennis elbow worse, so if it’s hurting, stop what you’re doing.” If you suffer from tennis elbow, check out these exercises that can be very helpful.

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Squeezing exercises

You can use a towel, a soft ball, a sponge, or a rolled-up sock to perform these exercises. Squeezing the object repeatedly and then releasing it will enhance your grip strength.

Wrist curls

“This exercise is kind of like doing a bicep curl except just with your wrist,” Dr. Bohl explains. Grasp a light weight in your hand, and, keeping your arm extended outward and facing up, curl your wrist inward, then relax. This exercise can also be performed by keeping your arm face-down and bending your wrist upward before relaxing.

Finger stretches

For this next move, you will need to place a rubber band around your thumb and fingers. Spread your fingers apart, then bring them back together. Perform this exercise 10 to 30 times.

Wrist twists

This exercise has you supporting your elbow on your knee or on a flat surface while holding the end of a light weight. Your palm should be face-down, keeping the weight pointed toward the floor. Rotate the weight to bring your palm face-up, then bring it back to the starting position. Perform wrist twists several times.

Stretches

Keeping your arm extended and your palm facing the floor, use the opposite arm to pull your hand downward while bending the wrist into a stretched position. Stay in this position for 30 seconds. Perform this stretch several times each day.

Alexa Mellardo

Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa

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