If you've ever had to deal with the pain of tennis elbow, you know how much of a nuisance it can be. Technically known as "lateral epicondylitis," tennis elbow occurs when the muscles in your forearm that are attached to your elbow become inflamed through overuse or repetitive strain. If you're looking for ways to rehabilitate a bothersome tennis elbow injury, try these five exercises to get you on the path to recovery.
1. Forearm Flexor Exercise
You can use either a light dumbbell or a canned item (e.g., soup, beans, etc.) for this exercise. Start by sitting in a chair with the affected forearm laying flat on your thigh, palm facing up. Hold the dumbbell/can in your hand, and allow your wrist to bend down to where it "folds" or bends over your knee. In a slow, smooth movement, bend your wrist back upwards until it is in alignment with your forearm again. Try performing 10 repetitions of this exercise two or three times a day to build up strength in your forearm flexor muscles.
2. Tennis Ball Squeeze
Maintaining adequate grip strength is one of the keys to preventing tennis elbow from rearing its ugly head, and this exercise will help you improve your grip strength by building up those all-important forearm muscles. Sit in a chair with your forearm resting on your thigh, or on a nearby table. Now hold a tennis ball (or a rolled-up towel) in the palm of your hand, and squeeze the ball as hard as you can for about 10 seconds. Release your grip, and then rest for about 25 seconds. Repeat the exercise 10 times, and then switch arms and do the same thing.
3. Eccentric Forearm Exercise
This exercise is basically the reverse of the forearm flexor exercise. You start off the same way, seated in a chair with your forearm laying flat on your thigh, but this time you will have your palm facing toward the ground. With a dumbbell (or a hearty can of chicken noodle soup) in your hand, allow your wrist to slowly bend down over your knee, and then slowly bring it back up to the starting position. Perform 10 repetitions of this exercise two or three times a day as well.
4. Wrist Flexion Exercise
This simple yet effective exercise will strengthen the wrist flexors, which play an important role in stabilizing your wrist as you grip your racquet and execute strokes. Sit in a chair with your forearm resting flat on your thigh. Hold a light dumbbell in your hand, with your palm facing up. Now slowly curl your wrist towards your body, and then lower it back down in one smooth motion. This is going to feel a little weird at first, but do your best to isolate the wrist movement by keeping your forearm still.
5. Towel Twist
This exercise can work wonders for your wrist flexors and wrist extensors, both of which are vital for stabilizing your wrists during game play. Sit in a chair holding a hand towel with both hands, keeping your shoulders nice and relaxed. Now twist the towel as if you're wringing water out of it, flexing the wrists in opposite directions. Perform this back-and-forth wringing motion 10 times. Do 3 sets of this exercise, resting about 25-30 seconds between sets.
While the above exercises are great for helping to rehabilitate a tennis elbow injury, keep in mind that you will have to wait for the inflammation to subside before beginning any exercise. Try using ice and compression to reduce inflammation, and be sure to consult with your doctor to help you determine when to begin performing these exercises. Here's to a speedy recovery!