Tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) is a term used to describe a painful condition that arises in the tendons of the elbows due to overuse of tendons and muscles of the wrist and forearm.(1,2) Contrary to the name, tennis elbow can affect anyone not just tennis players or athletes. Tennis elbow arises from repetitive movements that leads to excessive strain over the muscles of the forearm.(3) This over a period of time can cause repetitive strain injuries characterised by small tears in the tendons that attaches to the bone outside elbow leading to swelling, inflammation and pain in the area. It is commonly seen among carpenters, painters and plumbers whose daily work demands over usage of muscles. Though this can occur at any age, this condition mostly affects between the age of 30 and 50 years.
As described earlier, the most common feature of tennis elbow is pain and inflammation over the outer region of elbow. Pain is often ‘burning’ type of pain with tenderness upon touch radiating downwards towards the wrist and forearm.(2,4) The pain tends to worsen with movements such as rotation of the wrist and also with gripping and grasping movements. The pain also worsens with elbow movements. Treatment plan involves adequate rest, strengthening of muscles and pain relief.
Exercises to Avoid With Tennis Elbow
As a general rule it is recommended to avoid any activity that may cause sharp shooting pain in the elbow.(5) It is advised to strictly avoid the following list of exercises:(6)
- Wrist Exercises to Avoid with Tennis Elbow: Any form of exercises that involves wrist movements should be avoided. These includes forearm dumbbell curls and barbell extensions. These movements can worsen the existing condition by adding more stress and strain to the affected tendons around the elbow. This will worsen the injury and cause more pain and swelling.
- Repetitive Movements of Hands and Elbows: Exercises that involve repetitive movements of hands, arms and wrists should be avoided. This also includes lifting movements. These movements can further aggravate the existing condition and worsen the pain. Daily activities that involve this kind of repetitive movements should be limited if it cannot be completely avoided.
- Straight Arm Exercises to Avoid with Tennis Elbow: Exercises that require you to extend your elbows completely and requires maintaining straight arms position should be avoided. This kind of movement can exert unwanted stress and strain over the wrist extensor muscles leading to further worsening of the condition.
- Chin-ups, Push-ups, & Bench Presses To Be Avoided with Tennis Elbow: These are commonly done exercises at the gym or at home. However, these should be strictly avoided if the person has tennis elbow. These movements can cause severe irritation to the lateral tendons of the elbow as they exert strain on flexor muscles around the elbow region.
- Other Activities That Should Be Avoided With Tennis Elbow: Tennis elbow is common among other sportsmen such as swimmers and golfers. Any form of exercise that requires repetitive movement (Swimming, playing golf etc.) should be avoided. Other forms of activities such as painting, using tools such as screw driver, excessive use of computers, cooking, cleaning, certain musical instruments should be avoided as well. These activities besides worsening the condition can also delay the healing process. They also increase the risk of developing sprain over the lateral areas of the elbow muscles. It is best to avoid all these forms of movement until complete recovery is achieved.
Tennis elbow is a common name for a medical condition called as lateral epicondylitis. It is a commonly encounter condition characterised by pain and swelling over the elbow extending downwards towards the forearms.
It is advised to avoid any kind of exercises that involve repetitive movements as this can not only worsen the condition, but it can also delay the healing process which in turn will make the condition very complex.(7) Any form of exercises that involves wrist movements such as gripping, grasping and rotation of forearms is a complete no-no.
Other movements that involve stretching of arms and elbows can also exert strain over the affected muscles. However, physical therapy and rehabilitation plays a major role in the recovery process and it must be done under an expert supervision. The exercises which are prescribed by the doctor and the physiotherapist needs to be done in the correct manner and frequency to be able to achieve a quick recovery from tennis elbow.
- Vicenzino B, Hing W, Rivett D, Hall T. Mobilisation with movement: the art and the science. Churchill Livingstone; 2011.