Tennis Elbow Exercises and Treatments

Updated July 18, 2019
Pain in elbow

Tennis elbow is a painful, repetitive strain injury that not only affects the muscles and tendons around your elbow, but it may also affect your forearm and wrist. Exercises and treatments specifically for tennis elbow will help alleviate the pain and regain range of motion in your elbow joint. However, you should always consult with your doctor or physical therapist prior to attempting any of the following exercises.

Start With Stretches

Before you begin your tennis elbow exercises, it is always best to warm-up with some stretches.

Forearm Extensor Stretch

This will stretch your forearm extensor muscles which is typically affected the most by tennis elbow.

  1. Fully extend arm out in front of you, palm down.
  2. Rotate your arm inward, thumb toward the floor, palm facing out.
  3. Bend wrist back.
  4. With your other arm, reach and press top of hand/fingers to stretch.
  5. Hold stretch for 10 seconds.

Forearm Flexor Stretch

This stretch will help relieve tension at the front of the forearm, stretch the forearm flexor muscles and increase elbow flexibility.

  1. Fully extend arm out in front of you.
  2. Turn palm upward.
  3. Relax wrist back and let fingers point down toward the floor.
  4. With your other hand, press hand/fingers back.
  5. Hold stretch for 10 seconds.

Exercises for Tennis Elbow

Your tennis elbow symptoms can range from mild to severe and you may even experience a burning sensation. You can attempt tennis elbow exercises once the inflammation has subsided. These exercises will strengthen the muscles and tendons and help them recover as well. When performing these exercises use slow, smooth, controlled movements. Start slowly to ensure that you are not doing more harm than good. If you find a particular exercise painful, stop doing it and try again in a few days.

Ball/Towel Squeeze

This exercise focuses on the forearm flexors and will help with grip strength.

  1. You are seated for this exercise.
  2. Grip and squeeze a tennis ball, stress ball or rolled-up towel.
  3. Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds. Then rest. You can work your way up to longer squeezes.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10 to 20 squeezes.

Wrist Extension Exercise

This exercise targets the extensor tendon and will help it begin to heal.

  1. You are seated in a chair next to a table.
  2. You will need a light weight. A 1 or 2 lb dumbbell to start, a can, or a 16 oz water bottle will work as well.
  3. With the weight in hand, lay your arm on the table, palm down.
  4. Your wrist should be off the edge of the table so you are able to drop your hand down and move you the weight freely at the wrist.
  5. Slowly lift and extend your hand up at the wrist. Arm should remain stationary.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Wrist Flexion Exercise

This exercise will help strengthen your forearm flexor tendon.

  1. You will be in the same position as in the wrist extension exercise. Seated with your arm on the table, hand extended off the table at the wrist.
  2. Palm is facing up for this exercise.
  3. Hold a light weight in your hand which is extended off the table loosely.
  4. Keeping arm stationary, slowly move hand up and back down.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Add more weight or increase number of reps when the arm is feeling stronger.

Forearm Pronator and Supinator Exercise.

This exercise will help strengthen the pronator and supinator muscles of the forearm and the wrist as well.

  1. You will sit with your arm resting along your thigh or you can stand.
  2. With arm resting on your thigh, grip the bottom end of the weight. (Top of weight is toward the ceiling.)
  3. Using a slow, controlled movement, begin rotating your wrist inward until palm is down, stopping briefly. Then rotate your wrist slowly upward until palm is up, stopping briefly.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Hammer Curls

This exercise will help strengthen your flexor and extensor tendons as well as your forearm muscles.

  1. You will sit next to a table.
  2. Hold a light weight in the affected arm.
  3. You will place your forearm on the table with your wrist extended off the table.
  4. Grip weight in the middle as if you are holding a hammer.
  5. Using wrist motion only, raise up and down in slow, controlled movements.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Treatments That May Help Tennis Elbow

There are additional treatments that may help with your tennis elbow recovery as well. These include:

  • Ice can help reduce inflammation.
  • NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help with pain relief and inflammation.
  • A forearm brace/strap/band/compression can help reduce stress on the injury.
  • Physical therapy may help stretch and strengthen the muscles.
  • Massage can help improve circulation and stimulate healing.
  • Rest is imperative for this type of injury. It is important to reduce the repetitive activity that caused the injury. If you continue the repetitive activity, it will only make the injury worse.

Procedures That May Help Tennis Elbow

If your tennis elbow is not healing, and the pain is getting worse, you should speak to your doctor. He may recommend certain procedures that may give you relief which include:

  • Cortisone injections which may help with the inflammation and pain.
  • Therapeutic ultrasound may be used to stimulate the healing process of the injured tissue.
  • Surgery may be needed if your tennis elbow has become worse or has not responded to other treatments.

Healing and Prevention

Performing the tennis elbow stretches and exercises will help treat inflamed, painful tendons and muscles, but keep in mind it will take some time for your tennis elbow to heal. Once your tennis elbow has healed, it is recommended that you continue to perform the stretches and exercises to help prevent tennis elbow from returning.

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Tennis Elbow Exercises and Treatments