Last week, we discussed the elbow condition known as medial epicondylitis, aka, “Golfer’s elbow”. This week, we will explore exercises and other non-surgical remedies for this painful condition.
Although the following exercises can be performed at home by the patient, some patients may find the help of a physical therapist necessary:
- Wrist Stretch - Because the wrist controls much of the action in your forearm, it can be directly related to tennis elbow, so stretching and strengthening exercises for the wrist can help relieve the symptoms of tennis elbow. To stretch your wrist and the tendons and muscles in your forearm extend your arm out in front of you and lock your elbow. Grab the hand of your extended arm with your free hand, and push down slowly on your wrist until it is perpendicular to your arm, pointing straight down to the floor. Hold for five to 10 seconds, and then rest. Stretch your wrist the other way by bending it up so your fingers are pointing at the ceiling. Hold for five to 10 seconds, and then rest.
- Dumbbell Wrist Extension and Flexion - Strengthening the muscles and tendons of your forearm can help prevent tennis elbow from coming back. Sit in a chair with a dumbbell in your hand. Rest your forearm on your knee so your wrist is hanging over the edge. Bend your wrist down slowly so your knuckles are pointing down at the ground, and then up so your knuckles are pointing at the ceiling. Do 10 to 12 repetitions of this action, and then rest. Do flexion exercises by turning your entire forearm so your knuckles are pointing to the right, then all the way to the left. Do 10 to 12 repetitions, and then rest.
- Finger Extension - The finger extension is a simple exercise you can do anywhere, even while sitting at your desk at work. Press the tips of all the fingers on your hand together and put a rubber band around them. Slowly open your fingers as much as you can, stretching out the rubber band. Hold your fingers open for five to 10 seconds, and then close them again and relax for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat this process five to 10 times.
- Ball Squeeze - The ball squeeze exercise helps stretch and strengthen the muscles on the bottom of your forearm. Find a tennis ball or similar-sized ball you can squeeze. Hold the ball in your hand so it is resting in the palm of your hand. Wrap your fingers around the ball as far as you can. Slowly squeeze the ball as hard as you can. At the point where you can't squeeze any more, hold for five to 10 seconds. Relax your hand without dropping the ball. Repeat five to 10 times.
After therapy, gradually return to your usual activities. When your pain is gone, practice the arm motions of your sport or activity. Review your golf or tennis swing with an instructor and make adjustments if needed.
Remember; it is important to rest and ice elbow at acute pain before starting exercises. If your condition doesn't improve after applying these techniques, it’s time to seek professional attention.
Most people will get better with rest, ice and pain relievers. Depending on the severity of your condition, the pain may linger for months to years — even if you take it easy and follow instructions on exercising your arm. Sometimes the pain returns or becomes chronic. When other options have been exhausted, your doctor or therapist may try these non-surgical procedures:
- Corticosteroid injections – This treatment has not been shown to be an effective long-term treatment.
- Platelet-rich plasma injections - This newer treatment involves drawing a small amount of your blood, spinning it down and injecting it into the tender area. More studies are needed.
- Ultrasound - There is a new procedure involving minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided removal of scar tissue in the region of the tendon pain that is currently under medical investigation.
Surgery is seldom necessary. But if your signs and symptoms don't respond to conservative treatment in six to 12 months, you should talk to your doctor about surgical options.
If you are experiencing elbow pain, don’t wait for your family physician; visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana where you will receive personal care from a professional physical therapist!