If you've ever had tennis elbow, you know it's no laughing matter. Feeling elbow pain while picking up a gallon of water or simply brushing your hair is no joke. Even though it's called this, some people can develop tennis elbow without ever picking up a racket -- carpenters, computer specialists and painters, just to name a few. Tennis elbow occurs from overuse or repetitive stress to the muscles and tendons of your forearm and sometimes from poor stroke technique, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sadly, you can’t get rid of tennis elbow overnight, but you can treat and help prevent it with several gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.
Cup the hand of the affected arm. Bring your fingertips and your thumb together. Place a thick rubber band around your fingertips and don't forget your thumb. Slowly spread your fingers apart as far as you can and then bring them back together. Perform two sets of 10 to 12 finger spreads, two or three times each day. It's easy to find the time -- you can do this while riding in the car or watching TV.
Extend the affected arm straight out in front of your body with your palm facing the floor. Bend your wrist back and point your fingertips toward the ceiling as if you are telling someone to "stop." Grab your fingers with your other hand and gently pull them backward until you feel the strength under your forearm. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat five times, twice a day. Now with your arm still extended, bend your wrist down so your palm is facing you. Pull your fingers toward you until you feel the stretch along the top of your forearm.
Do a prayer stretch. Put your palms together and hold your hands just below your chin. It's as if you are praying -- maybe praying you will get rid of your tennis elbow. While keeping your hands together, slowly lower your hands toward your stomach and lift your elbows out to the sides. Stop when you feel the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds and then relax. Repeat five times.
Throw an old, squishy tennis ball in your car and while stopped at a light, squeeze it as hard as you comfortably can, pause and then relax. Try to squeeze the ball 25 times before the light changes color. While watching TV, try squeezing the ball every time a commercial comes on during a 15-minute period. Perform ball squeezes twice a day.
Grab a 1-pound hand weight and kneel next to a workout bench. Rest your arm along the top edge and turn your hand so your palm faces down. You want your hand to hang over the end. Bend your wrist, lower the weight toward the floor and then raise it as high as you can. Now, turn your palm so it faces up. Bend your wrist, bring the weight toward you and then lower it as far as you can. Perform three sets of 10 reps with each exercise.
Swap out your hand weight with a hammer. Kneel next to your bench and position your arm along the edge. Hold the end of the handle and start with the hammer perpendicular to the floor. Slowly rotate your hand inward until your palm is facing the floor and then return to the starting position. Now, rotate your hand in the opposite direction until your palm is facing the ceiling. Perform three sets of 10 reps. To decrease the intensity a tad, move your hand closer to the hammer's head.
- You don't want to stretch cold muscles. Perform a 10-minute warm-up first.
- If squeezing a ball is uncomfortable, squeeze a sponge.
- Check with your doctor before doing stretching or strengthening exercises.
- If you experience any pain, stop and consult your doctor or physical therapist.