Tennis Elbow Relief – 3 Key Exercises
Today, I want to go through just a few exercises for lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow. People that have this are well aware of it.
Usually, it hurts to grip. Sometimes a wide grip is particularly painful, sometimes wrist extension and it depends as well on where you are in terms of the amount of elbow flexion.
So I’m going to teach you three basic exercises, nothing magical about these. They will help a large majority of people who have complaints with the lateral elbow. They won’t help everyone because this is a more complicated issue in some arenas. So you just have to test it for yourself, if you have issues with the lateral elbow, I recommend that you do some testing.
Do some grip testing, both making a fist. Do it with elbow bent, elbow straight, and get an idea of what your current discomfort
level is and then we’re going to begin with our 3 exercise series.
Exercise 1 is just called a bottom elbow circle. It’s really simple but when we do it correctly it helps mobilize the radius, one of the bones that help make up our elbow. The way that you do this, you’re going to stand nice and tall, take your arm out to the side with your palm facing up. You’re going to bend your elbow and then bring your fingers in until they touch your side. You’re then going to make a circle thinking about the elbow.
You’ll go all the way out and you’re going to try to lock your elbow completely. Rotate back to that palm-up position and repeat. I want you to do this five or ten times and try to make it nice and smooth. You may hear or feel a little click or pop in your elbow here. If you do, that’s typically a pretty good thing. It just tells us that we’re mobilizing the correct area. That’s exercise one.
Exercise 2: you’re then going to bend your elbow to 90 degrees. So begin with the palm down and I want to make sure that you keep your elbow secured to your side. From here, you’re just going to simply rotate to a palm-up position, and from here, you’re going to help your wrist and hand move a little further into that palm-up position. So maybe 5 to 10, repetitions of a light mobilization, light stretch. Many people that have lateral, epicondylitis, have difficulties going into this position called supination, holding the bowl of soup. So I want you to just try to do that again. Maybe 5 to 10 repetitions of a nice, slow comfortable stretch. You may want to compare that, how it feels, and also the total range of motion available to the opposite side of the body, so you have a baseline.
Exercise 3 is what we’re going to call a radial nerve neuromechanic. Most of the time, when we’re getting pain in this lateral elbow, it’s, in part at least, due to irritation or maybe entrapment of the radial nerve. Here’s how we do what’s called a nerve flossing exercise, for the radial nerve.
We get nice and tall, lengthen up through the top of the head, lengthen up from the bottom of the neck. Let your arm hang down by your side.
Now, what I want you to do is take your thumb and fold it across your palm, and then you’re going to flex your wrist. So you take your fingers and you’re going to try and reach them up to touch your forearm. Now make sure that your elbow is straight. From here, go to your shoulder and internally, rotate it. All right, so I flex my thumb, flex my wrist, lock my elbow, internally rotate. You’re probably feeling a little bit of a nervy sensation now around your tricep or around the area that’s sore. So, I now want you to gently take the arm out to the side and gently pull the shoulder blade down.
This is going to be the basic setup for a radial nerve neuromechanic drill in that position. As I said, you’re going to feel some maybe light, tingling sensations, or other stress, again in the tricep, or in the area where you have the discomfort. So once you’ve found that we want to now do a little bit of flossing activity. We’re going to elevate the shoulder and depress the shoulder. Elevate and depress. Do that about five times. Nice and slow. Now, hold the shoulder down, and I want you to internally and externally, rotate from the glenohumeral joint, again, 5 or 10 times. Then hold both of those positions and we’re going to bend the elbow, straighten the elbow, so we can work our way down from each of the joints. Just trying to get a little mobilization of that nerve. Just like all the other drills that we teach that are specifically focused on flossing or moving a nerve through tissue. Make sure that you keep the tension low – level 3 out of 10. Keep your repetitions low, maybe about five for each of the different joint movements.
I don’t want you to overstretch this or make it uncomfortable. If in this position you don’t feel like you’re getting any tension, you can also add in a head tilt away that will often intensify it. So just go gently and easily with that particular series.
So, those are your three basic exercises. Again, we have the bottom elbow circle, we have our supination stretch, and then we follow that up with a radial nerve glide. Try and do that two to three times a day again, keeping the intensity down because we’re trying to coax your brain into understanding that your elbow is safe and hopefully that will lead you to a much less painful presentation. Good luck!