Exercises to try for your elbow tendinitis

Tennis Elbow Exercises to Avoid

Looking for exercises to treat your elbow tendinitis? Elbow tendinitis involves swelling in the tendon that supports the muscles in your elbow. This swelling can cause elbow pain. Elbow pain can make it difficult for you to complete daily activities like moving your wrist and picking up a fork. If you’re having trouble completing your daily activities, you may also have trouble completing work and/or school tasks. Knowing about relevant exercise options can help you get the help you need to more easily complete your daily activities and responsibilities.

2 therapeutic exercises that can treat elbow tendinitis

Licensed physical therapists can treat tennis elbow through a variety of therapeutic exercises. Therapeutic exercises involve activities focused on muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Here are two therapeutic exercises that can treat elbow tendinitis:

  • Muscle performance exercises — Muscle performance exercises focus on strengthening your muscles. For someone with tennis elbow, these exercises can involve strengthening muscles in multiple areas that support and move the elbow. 

For example, your physical therapist may ask you to do a fist clench exercise. If you have tennis elbow, you may be experiencing difficulty holding on to objects. The fist clench exercise can help with this difficulty by strengthening the muscles in your forearm. These muscles support your elbow, but strengthening them can also increase your grip strength. 

To do the fist clench exercise, sit down next to a table and place your arm on the table with your palm facing up. Grab a small towel, roll it up and squeeze it for 10 seconds. Let go of the towel and then repeat these steps 10 times. Do these repetitions for each arm. 

In addition to muscle strengthening, a physical therapist may use the fist clench exercise to increase muscle endurance. They may ask you to squeeze a small towel as hard as you can for 10 seconds. As you repeat this exercise, the time that you squeeze the towel may increase (e.g., from 10 seconds to 20 seconds). These repetitions can help improve the duration of your grip strength.

  • Range-of-motion exercises — Range-of-motion exercises focus on increasing the range of motion in your elbow joint. Examples include active and passive exercises:
  • Active exercises — Active exercises refer to you stretching your elbow by gently placing pressure on your elbow muscles. 

For example, your physical therapist may recommend palm slides. Palm slides involve you sitting down with your palm flat on the table. Next, gently stretch your fingers while still keeping them on the table. Be sure not to bend your fingers. Stay in this position for about 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat these steps four times for each hand.

  • Passive exercises — Passive exercises refer to a physical therapist doing that action. Your physical therapist may recommend passive exercises to prepare you to do active exercises. 

An example of a passive exercise for elbow tendinitis is a physical therapist bending your elbow so that it touches your opposite shoulder. During this exercise, your therapist may repeat this movement with your other elbow.

The combination of active and/or passive exercises that a physical therapist may recommend depends on your individual needs.

Tennis elbow exercises to avoid

One type of elbow tendinitis is tennis elbow. It’s a fairly common condition: About 3% of people in the United States are affected by tennis elbow each year. If you have tennis elbow, it’s helpful to know which exercises to avoid to increase the effectiveness of your treatment. Here are key tennis elbow exercises to avoid:

  • Repetitive weight-bearing exercises — Repetitive weight-bearing exercises involve you holding up your body while moving your arms. Examples of this type of exercise include chin-ups and pushups. These exercises put pressure on your elbow. This pressure can lead to either another elbow injury or a longer recovery period.
  • Straight-arm exercises — Straight-arm exercises involve you holding your arm straight for long periods. This action puts pressure on your elbow tendons (i.e., the tissue that supports the muscles in your elbow) and arm muscles. Common straight-arm exercises include high planks and side planks.
  • High-weight wrist exercises — High-weight wrist exercises involve weights such as barbells. However, typically physical therapists recommend therapeutic exercises with little to no weights for tennis elbow. Lifting weights can strain the muscles in your elbow, which can worsen your elbow pain.

Benefits that PT exercises can have for tennis elbow

While there isn’t a solution that can heal your tennis elbow immediately, regularly doing exercises with a licensed physical therapist can reduce your elbow pain.

Here are some key benefits of using physical therapy exercises to treat your tennis elbow:

  • Targeted results — If you have elbow tendinitis, then your physical therapist may recommend exercises that focus on your elbow and forearm. These exercises can strengthen the muscles in your elbow and forearms, which can improve the blood flow to those areas.
  • Improved muscle balance and coordination — Balance and coordination exercises focus on strengthening the interaction between your elbow and forearm muscles. If this interaction is strengthened, it may be easier for you to do daily activities such as opening a door and picking up objects.
  • Improved muscle strength — As mentioned earlier, physical therapy clinics offer exercises that focus on muscle performance. In other words, these exercises can help you strengthen your elbow muscles.Stronger elbow muscles make it easier for you to stretch your arms.
  • Improved range of motion — Also mentioned earlier, physical therapy clinics offer exercises that focus on range of motion. If it is easier for you to move your elbow, then you can more easily get into a comfortable sleeping position at bedtime.
  • Improved ability to avoid future injuries — Through physical therapy exercises, you can become more aware of how to avoid elbow injuries. For example, a physical therapist may recommend sitting on a chair with all four chair legs on the ground. By not tilting your chair, you’ll be less likely to fall out of your chair and land on your elbow. Another recommendation that a physical therapist might give you involves regularly stretching your arms so that your elbow muscles do not tense up. They may even recommend not leaning on your elbow for long periods while working at a desk.

These benefits of physical therapy can lead to you having a shorter recovery time. Therefore, consistent exercise can help you more quickly improve the quality of your life.

PT techniques to treat elbow tendinitis

To treat elbow tendinitis, physical therapists can combine exercises with the following PT techniques:

  • Manual therapy Manual therapy involves a licensed physical therapist using their hands to loosen the muscles in your injured area. One common manual therapy exercise is joint mobilization. Elbow tendinitis can immobilize your elbow joint, which can produce elbow pain. If you can’t move your elbow, your physical therapist can use their hands to gently place pressure on your elbow muscles. This process can loosen up these muscles. The more easily you can move your muscles, the more likely that you can reduce your elbow pain.
  • Graston Technique® — The Graston Technique is a type of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization. This technique involves a physical therapist using stainless steel instruments to gently place pressure on your elbow joint. Don’t worry — your therapist can adjust the amount of pressure placed on your elbow joint during your treatment depending on your needs. Also, they can place cold packs on your elbow joint if that area is sore. Patients usually have two sessions each week for about five weeks. During the third or fourth session, patients may experience relieved elbow pain. 

The Graston Technique can benefit your elbow joint in these ways:

  • Increased blood flow.
  • Increased cellular activity.
  • Increased mobility.
  • Reduced inflammation.
  • Reduced pain.

Panther PT can treat your elbow tendinitis through a variety of PT exercises and techniques

Have elbow tendinitis but not sure which exercises to choose? With so many options, this process may seem overwhelming. However, you’re not alone.

At Panther PT, we value compassionate and respectful patient service. We can determine the elbow tendinitis exercises that work best for you through a free screening. A licensed physical therapist can use the results of this screening to design a treatment plan that best fits your needs.

We’re happy to help you manage your elbow tendinitis so that you can have a better quality of life. Call us or request an appointment today to learn more about exercises for elbow tendinitis.