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Four Simple Tips for Tennis Elbow

Whether you have it or want to prevent it, FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers – Forest Grove has advice for you.

By Beth Jennings, PT

What is tennis elbow?

Years ago, I competed in a two-day racquetball tournament. I played all summer long in a league, but pushed it hard that weekend. I didn’t win but I did come away with was a memorable irritation on the outside of my elbow. Yes, I’m talking about “tennis elbow” or the medical name, lateral epicondylitis. 

Tennis elbow is pain and irritation from overworked forearm muscles, specifically the ones that move the back of your hand towards your forearm (like when you make the “stop” gesture with an outstretched arm). The muscles and where they attach to the bone on the outside of the elbow can get pretty angry when you demand more work than they could handle.

Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow

    • Pain, burning or ache in the top of the forearm or the outer elbow 

    • Tender to touch over the top of the forearm or the outer elbow

    • Weakness in grip strength

    • Pain worsens with forearm activity or hand use, especially gripping and twisting motions

    • Pain in elbow when making the “stop” motion with an outstretched arm

    • No accident or trauma has occurred prior and the area is typically not visibly red or inflamed

How did I get tennis elbow? I don’t even play tennis.

Tasks that could cause tennis elbow could include:

    • Use of tools such as hammers, drills, screwdrivers, jackhammers, and chainsaws

    • Repetitive gripping such as with painting, playing an instrument, assembly line work

    • Sudden increase in workload using hands or tools

    • Repetitive lifting where heavy grip is used

    • Racquet or paddle sports, particularly with poor conditioning, technique or racquet fit

    • Use of a keyboard or mouse with poor technique

    • Weakness in the shoulder, arm, or wrist

Four simple tips if you think you have tennis elbow

We can treat this at FYZICAL Forest Grove, but here are a few tips to get you started:

    • Stop the irritating activity if you can, yet don’t stop using your arm or hand completely.

    • Keep muscles active while they calm. Movement is important for blood flow but don’t go overboard. Move so that pain is 4 out of 10 or less (0=no pain, 10=the worst pain).

    • Move your wrist back and forth while your elbow is bent and straight. Vary the position of your arm such as overhead, in front of you, out to the side (4 out of 10 or less!).

    • Try ice or other methods to reduce inflammation (Talk to your doctor about medications).

Other problems could cause elbow pain and a good evaluation may be necessary. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

How can physical therapy at FYZICAL Forest Grove help you with your elbow pain?

Our physical therapists will evaluate your elbow pain and determine the best course of action for you. It might include things like:

    • Exercises to encourage blood flow and healing. Later these might include strengthening

    • Hands-on techniques such as massage

    • Education on whether bracing or other supports are right for you

    • Education on activity modification or self-care 

    • Discussion of your pain and guidance on your activities or work

Four simple tips to prevent tennis elbow

    • Keep your shoulders, arms, and wrist muscles strong. Keep a squeeze ball by your chair while watching a movie to keep those muscles conditioned.

    • If sport-related elbow pain, work with your coach or a specialist on correcting any technique or equipment issues and warm-up your arms prior to practice.

    • Take breaks during long bouts of repetitive activities using the hands and wrist.

    • Plan for sharp increases in workload or activity and begin strengthening beforehand.

Want to learn more?

Click here to learn more about elbow, wrist and hand pain relief.

We’d love to talk to you more about your elbow pain. Contact us or talk to your provider about seeing us for your elbow pain. 

Beth Jennings, PT is a freelance health writer and a physical therapist of more than 20 years.

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