If you’ve had tennis elbow before you know it can be painful and debilitating. Pain in the outside of your elbow can affect your ability work, grip, play sports, and even sleep. Simply put, it’s a painful and frustrating complaint that if not treated or not treated correctly can persist and worsen. Keep in mind, tennis elbow is also called “lateral epicondylitis” or “lateral epicondylopathy” and doesn’t happen only in people who play tennis.
There are plenty of claims on the internet and by healthcare providers about how to get relief from tennis elbow, so let’s take a look at them. In this content, I’ll discuss 3 things to heal tennis elbow and 3 things that don’t help tennis elbow and are best to avoid.
Things to Avoid for Tennis Elbow Treatment
× Elbow and Wrist Stretches that are Constant and Frequent.
Yes, I know your elbow feels tight. When you have tightness you might assume that stretching is that solution. However, with tennis elbow, constant and frequent wrist and elbow stretching is not the solution.
If you’re hammering those wrist and elbow stretches every day you’re doing more harm than good. That’s because when you stretch you’re actually pulling and stressing the tendon attachment of your forearm muscles instead of letting the area heal. Mild stretching may be okay and provide some temporary relief, but you have to be careful not to overdo it when you’re dealing with tennis elbow.
Stretching these muscles won’t loosen them up when they’re irritated, traumatized and or inflamed. They need relief from tension and not an increase in tension to allow the healing process to happen.
× Resting Your Elbow and Wrist as Much as Possible.
Completely avoiding using your elbow and lower arm is not a good idea. Your arm needs to move to encourage better blood flow to the area to help with healing. Using these muscles in a low load capacity is good for the healing process. Immobilizing them is typically only the right thing to do if you have a fracture or have just had surgery.
It’s important to move your elbow and wrist but to be careful when you have a condition such as tennis elbow. Exposing the muscles and tissues to high load capacity and aggravating activities such as gripping, twisting, and turning, will only disrupt the healing process and slow it down.
× Using an Elbow Sleeve.
If you’re using an elbow sleeve to help with your tennis elbow you’re wasting time and money. An elbow sleeve isn’t going to make things worse, but it’s not going to help tennis elbow heal quicker. It may provide some minor pain relief because of how the pressure stimulates the nerve pathways involved in pain, but this will likely be short-lived.
Avoid buying elbow sleeves on Amazon (or at other stores) that claim to be for tennis elbow. I’ve seen thin spandex-like sleeves that claim to have copper or ions in them and I’ve also seen patients try them with no results. Elbow injuries like tennis elbow aren’t fixed by throwing a sleeve-like brace on your arm.
3 Ways to Fix Tennis Elbow
+ Eccentric Strengthening Exercises
Eccentric strengthening exercises are what’s going to strengthen your damaged tendon when you’re suffering from tennis elbow. Eccentric exercises are those which involve a muscle contracting under tension while it lengthens. It’s a completely different exercise than say a wrist extension exercise.
This type of exercise builds strength and load capacity in the tendon around the damaged area. Eccentric exercises have been shown time and time again to the right thing to do for tendinosis or tendinitis injuries like tennis elbow.
+ Dry Needling for Tennis Elbow
Dry needling is a therapy that involves stimulating trigger points in the tight muscles that you feel need to be stretched. Using small needles a rehab specialist can go directly into the trigger point and release some of the muscle tension, something that’s hard to get done with stretching.
Additionally, trigger points are contributing to the pain you have associated with tennis elbow. Dry needling can relieve some of this pain and it can often do it quickly. Dry needling is a treatment only performed by specially trained healthcare professionals. It’s safe, and you can actually see and feel the trigger points releasing during treatment.
Here’s a cool case study about this treatment to check out if you’re interested –> Dry Needling for Tennis Elbow Relief
A Cho-Pat brace for tennis elbow relieves tension at the tendon attachment of your wrist extensor muscles. When it’s not being constantly damaged and inflamed it has a chance to heal. They’re affordable and easy to find on Amazon.
+ Cho-Pat Elbow Brace for Tennis Elbow
As I said earlier, elbow sleeves aren’t very helpful for tennis elbow. However, a brace called a Cho-Pat brace can help your tennis elbow heal. Sometimes these braces are also referred to as “elbow counter-tension braces.”
Unlike an elbow sleeve which just provides some compression to the area, a Cho-Pat brace changes the point of tension for wrist extensor muscles and disperses tension so it’s not all at the tendon attachment. Your elbow can’t withstand constant pulling or vibration when it’s trying to heal, or it will continue to be damaged and inflamed. Use one of these braces as part of your recovery process.
The Best Way to Heal Tennis Elbow
The best way to heal your tennis elbow is a comprehensive rehab strategy of eccentric elbow exercises, dry needling, and bracing. Other treatments our chiropractic office offers that may help you are therapeutic ultrasound treatment and Graston Technique manual therapy. We treat tennis elbow frequently and are experienced in how to relieve tennis elbow pain.
Medical treatments for tennis elbow include cortisone steroid shots and surgery. Cortisone steroid shots for tennis elbow can provide significant temporary relief but many times elbow pain comes back after the steroid wears off. If you do have a cortisone shot in your elbow you should follow it up with by seeing a chiropractor for some rehab. The surgery option for tennis elbow should be a last resort, only if you’ve failed rehab or have a complete tendon tear.
Still curious about dry needling or wondering if could help you with other injuries? See some content I wrote about dry needling for other injuries!
Dr. Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include back pain, neck pain, muscular pain, extremity pain, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.
If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.