How to Prevent Tennis Elbow | IMPACT Physical Therapy

How to Prevent Tennis Elbow

Man wearing elbow brace for tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is one of most common sports injuries—and in fact, you can develop it whether you play tennis or not. If you perform repetitive wrist and arm motions that involve force, the tissue connecting the forearm muscle to the elbow can become irritated and lead to lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow. If you’ve developed tennis elbow, you may be experiencing the following symptoms:

Fortunately, simple physical therapy exercises to stretch and strengthen your wrists and forearms are highly effective in tennis elbow prevention and recovery. Below, we’ll go over some general tennis elbow preventions that you can do throughout the day, as well as tennis warm-ups that can reduce the strain on your arms.

Tennis Warm-Ups to Prevent Tennis Elbow

Stronger wrist and forearm muscles support your tendons and act as a buffer against the force you feel from your racket. Whether you’re currently experiencing symptoms or looking for effective tennis elbow preventions, a doctor or physical therapist can suggest exercises that are designed to do exactly that. For example, your provider may suggest that you:

Stretch your fingers.

  • Touch your fingers to your thumb together, and secure them with a rubber band. 
  • Slowly stretch your fingers and thumb apart, and then touch them together again. 
  • Repeat this motion 25 times. 
  • Perform this set up to three times each day, and feel free to add more resistance with an extra rubber band.

Stretch your wrist flexor muscles.

  • Hold your arm out in front of you, elbow just slightly bent, with your palm facing up. 
  • With your other hand, take hold of the fingers of the raised arm and bend them gently toward your body until you feel a stretch in your inner forearm. 
  • Hold for 15 seconds and repeat three to five times, up to three times each day. 
  • As this gets easier, you can increase the time to 30 seconds and perform the exercise five to ten times per day.

Strengthen and stretch your wrist flexor and extensor muscles.

  • For this exercise, you’ll need a one-pound dumbbell. 
  • Sitting on a firm surface, support your forearm by resting it on your thigh or on the edge of a table, so that your wrist hangs over the edge. 
  • Hold the weight with your palm facing up. Slowly raise and lower your hand by moving only your wrist, making sure that your arm stays in the same position on your thigh or the table. 
  • Repeat ten times.

Adjust your tennis equipment and technique.

  • Make sure that your equipment isn’t causing any unnecessary strain. You may need to adjust the weight, grips, or string tension of your racket.
  • Power your stroke with your whole body, rather than just your arm. This way, your arm won’t be on the line for absorbing the entire force.
  • Ask your coach to correct any issues with your form that could be adding strain.
  • Use a two-handed backhand.

General Tennis Elbow Preventions

When you’re at work or going about your day, these more general tennis elbow preventions can also help prevent tennis elbow pain:

  • If you can, avoid repetitive hand and wrist movements. If that’s not possible due to your job or other responsibilities, try wearing a brace and taking more frequent breaks.
  • Rework your movements to involve your upper arm more.
  • Avoid fully extending or bending your arm.
  • Always perform tennis warm-ups or stretch before physical activity.
  • Adjust your tools and workstation: tools with bigger grips, added padding, gloves, etc.

Prevent Tennis Elbow With Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can provide you with tips for how to prevent tennis elbow and reduce the severity of your symptoms. To get started today, request an appointment at an IMPACT Physical Therapy location in your area! You can find us in downtown Chicago, across the Southwest suburbs, and in Champaign Urbana.