Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammation in the tendons of the outer bony part of the elbow joint. The primary cause of a tennis elbow is excessive strain on the tendons and muscles of the forearm. The cause of this strain is the repeated , identical motions of the forearm that cause microscopic tears in the tendons leading to pain and inflammation.
Apart from sportspersons like tennis players, who repetitively use the forearm muscles, professionals such as plumbers and painters are also at a higher risk of developing a tennis elbow.
The key to healing a tennis elbow lies in timely intervention. The earlier the process of healing begins the faster will the tendons and muscles recover. The primary cause of a tennis elbow is weak muscles. Exercise strengthens muscles and associated tendons and helps in faster healing.
1. Elbow Stretch
Stretching is an important part of exercising as it helps reduce stiffness and increases mobility and the range of muscle movement. These stretches help to increase the wrist movement and also flex and stretch the forearm muscles.
Hold both your arms straight in front of you at shoulder level. Clench your hands into a fist and bend backwards as far as possible. Hold the position for a few seconds and relax by bringing the wrist back to the earlier position. Now turn your arms inward with a flexed wrist, hold, and stretch outward with an extended wrist. Repeat ten times, at least thrice a day.
2. Forearm Stretch
Forearm stretch is an important part of a successful exercise regime for tennis elbow. It involves a gentle manual stretch of the injured hand muscles, increasing the blood flow and accelerating the healing process.
Raise the injured arm in front of you. With palms facing downwards, grab the fingers of the injured hand and slowly pull fingers backwards to feel a stretch. Hold on for 15 to 20 seconds and release. Repeat the exercise five times at least twice a day.
3. Wrist Curls
This exercise specifically targets and strengthens the muscles of the forearm and aids the healing process.
Rest the injured arm on a table or the armrest of a chair such that your palms are not on the table or the armrest, but are free to move. Grab some weights or an unopened can of beans or a drink with the palms facing upwards. Let the wrist bend downwards, slowly raise the wrist as high as possible. Hold for a few seconds and bring the wrist down again. Repeat ten times
Repeat the same exercise with palms facing downwards and lifting weights. Repeat the exercises ten times, thrice a day. Make sure that the weights are not too heavy. It is always better to start with lighter weights and gradually move to heavier ones.
Squeezing and releasing of the tennis ball or stress ball exercises the small muscles in the forearm and improves the strength and grip of the hand while simultaneously relieving some of the stress caused due to a tennis elbow.
Invest in a small palm size or racquet-size tennis or stress ball. Grip the ball in your hand and squeeze it as much as you can. Hold on for a couple of seconds initially and then gently release it. Perform this movement slowly and increase the length of the squeeze for at least 10 to 15 seconds. Do the exercise 10 times, thrice daily. If this takes too much of an effort or leads to strain, then try squeezing a sponge ball or a piece of sponge or washcloth soaked in water.
5. Elbow Twists
Wringing out wet or dry clothes turns, twists, and exercises the muscles of the wrist and strengthens the forearms.Grab on to a dry or wet towel and wring it with both your arms outstretched such that the towel is twisted. Release one end of the towel to open it, and repeat to wring it out in the other direction. Redo for 10 counts and twice a day.