How To Prevent Tennis Elbow

So maybe you’ve had tennis elbow before and you want to keep it from coming back. Or, you have a job -- say you’re a painter or a carpenter -- where you’re more likely to get it and you want to avoid it in the first place.

The memory, or even the thought, of swollen tendons causing pain from your elbow to your wrist can definitely motivate you. Turns out, there’s a lot you can do to keep your elbows happy and healthy.

Tips for Prevention

Exercises to stretch and strengthen your wrist and forearm muscles can be a big help in preventing tennis elbow. There’s also plenty you can do throughout your day to lessen strain on your arms.

General tips: Avoid making the same hand and arm movements over and over. If that's not an option for you, wear a brace and take breaks as often as you can. Some other tips:

  • Learn to use your shoulder and upper arm muscles to take the strain off your elbow.
  • Stick to the middle of your range of motion -- avoid bending or straightening your arm all the way.
  • Warm up and stretch before sports and other activities where you repeat the same motions with your arm.

At work: Avoid working with a bent wrist. Keep it straight, if possible. A couple of other ideas:

  • Stick with smooth movements instead of sharp, jerky ones.
  • Talk to your manager about rotating jobs, doing different tasks, or changing your workstation setup to reduce strain.

Using tools: Go with tools that have bigger grips. You can wear gloves or add padding to help. You should also:

  • Hold tools with a looser grip; take some of the tension out of your hand, if you can.
  • If you use a hammer, use one with padding to help absorb shock.

On the court: Make sure your racquet’s right for you. Lighter weight, larger grips, and softer strings may reduce the strain on your tendons. Also:

  • Ask a coach to help with your form. The correct technique can help avoid injury.
  • Stick with a two-handed backhand.
  • Use your whole lower body to put power into your stroke, not just your arm.

Continued

Tennis Elbow Exercises

You can do several exercises to stretch and strengthen your arm muscles. Ask your doctor or a physical therapist for more information and suggestions. Here are a few samples to get you started:

Finger stretch:

  • Touch your fingers to your thumb and put a rubber band around them, including your thumb
  • Slowly open your thumb and fingers all the way, then close them
  • Repeat up to 25 times

Do this stretch up to three times a day. If it gets too easy, try two rubber bands.

Wrist flexor stretch:

  • Hold your arm straight out so your elbow isn’t bent and your palm faces up
  • Use your other hand to hold the fingers of your outstretched hand and bend it back toward your body until you can feel it in your inner forearm
  • Hold for 15 seconds
  • Repeat three to five times

Do this two to three times a day. You can hold it for up to 30 seconds and work your way up to repeat five to 10 times instead of three to five.

Wrist flexor strengthening:

  • Grab a 1-pound dumbbell -- or a can of beans -- and take a seat
  • Support your forearm on your thigh or the edge of a table so that your wrist hangs over the edge
  • Hold the weight in your hand with your palm facing up
  • Raise your hand slowly, then lower it slowly -- your arm stays on your thigh as your hand bends up and down at the wrist
  • Repeat 10 times
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on December 29, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

University of Rochester: “Tennis Elbow."

Mayo Clinic: “Tennis Elbow.”

FamilyDoctor.org: “Tennis Elbow.”

UpToDate: “Patient education: Elbow tendinopathy (tennis and golf elbow) (Beyond the Basics).”

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: “Tennis Elbow.”

Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma: “Tennis Elbow: Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis.”

Massachusetts General Hospital: “Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis).”

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