How to Actually Treat Tennis Elbow


Your pain is on the outside of the elbow and outer muscles of the forearm.

You constantly feel like you have to massage it.

You’ve lost grip strength and when you do grip - it hurts.

You’ve tried stretching but nothing makes it go away.

If this is you - you likely have tennis elbow.


What’s that you say? You’re not a tennis player?

That doesn’t matter. While playing racquet sports can increase your risk of developing tennis elbow, only 5 out of 100 people actually develop tennis elbow.


Tennis elbow affects the outer muscles and tendons used for wrist extension (you do this when you hold out your hand when you’re singing, “STOP! In The Name of Love").


Tennis elbow is often mistaken for golf elbow, but golf elbow impacts the inside tissues responsible for wrist flexion (which is the opposite of extension).


Will tennis elbow heal on its own? Typically, yes - IF you stop doing the things that are triggering it.


Activities that trigger tennis elbow symptoms can include:


  • Playing racket sports.
  • Using tools.
  • Painting.
  • Cutting up foods for cooking, particularly meat.
  • Using a computer mouse/trackpad a lot.


We know it's not always realistic or desired to stop activities that trigger tennis elbow. Ultimately, recognize that it's not the activity itself that is the cause, but the way you're carrying or holding your body.


You also may need to look at what isn’t hurting. This is because the things that cause elbow pain usually are stemming from above in the shoulder or below at the wrist.

Overused Wrist Extensors

During a throw or swing, athletes have to decelerate their movement.  If you don’t have good mechanics and the proper strength in your shoulder and scapula for this, the outside of the forearm is going to pick up the slack. 


Similarly, computer work involves using trackpads and a computer mouse for hours at a time, leading to this same overuse of the wrist extensor muscles, plus often internally rotated shoulders. 


Do these things long or frequently enough and those muscles and tendons are going to get cranky and start talking to you about how you're pushing them beyond their capacity.


Your shoulder and elbow are directly connected. Whatever sketchy body mechanics are happening up in the shoulder joint are going to have a domino effect down the line. 

Misaligned Shoulders

A rounded upper spine can lead to rounded shoulders. Rounded shoulders lead to internally rotated arms. Internally rotated arms then cause the forearm to pronate and a chronically pronating forearm leaves the muscles elongated and stretched - and not in a good way. 


This kind of muscular stretch / tension for long periods leads to pain.


If you don’t correct bad posture and rounded shoulders, it’s not going to matter what you do by way of massage and stretching of the forearm and elbow area because you’re not addressing the root cause. 

Restore proper spine and shoulder position - and the elbow will follow.


Stretches and massages feel good and can be helpful. Just know that they only provide temporary relief. Strengthening the muscles and aligning the joints properly is where long term solutions happen.


  1. Solo Stretch: Extend your arm straight out, make a fist, and flex your wrist down while maintaining a straight arm. Rotate your wrist from side to side.
  2. Partner Massage: Alleviate pain for your partner by having them place their arm palm down across a table or bench. Slide your fist along their wrist extensor muscles as you apply downward pressure with your knuckles.


Lateral Side Raises with External Shoulder Rotation

You can use weights or a resistance band for these. The key is to keep the weight/resistance light enough that you can keep your upper traps from shrugging up toward your ears and shoulders down.


Keeping the movement slow and controlled will provide plenty of strength gains.


  1. Stand on the center of your band with one end in each hand or grab some light weights.
  2. Press your shoulders down toward your back pockets and stand with good posture. Rotate your shoulders and arms externally so that your palms are facing forward. 
  3. From there, simultaneously raise both arms out to your sides, keeping your elbow perfectly straight (not locked) and palms facing the wall in front of you. Lower and repeat for 3 rounds @ 8-10 reps per round.

Weighted Wrist Extensions

An exercise to strengthen the likely shortened and weak extensor muscles in the forearm.  


  1. Rest your forearm on a bench or table with the wrist and hand hanging off the edge, palm facing the floor.
  2. Move slowly and with control. Fully extend your wrist (image on the left) so that the palm is facing the wall in front of you. Do not move any other part of your body. Repeat for 3 rounds at 8-12 reps per round.

Kettlebell Swings


The kettlebell swing may be advanced for some so feel free to stick with the first two exercises. However, it is a great exercise to get the full body working like the singular unit it is.


Always remember that the hips and glutes are the primary drivers of the KB swing. The arms are merely along for the ride. Here’s how to do a proper kettlebell swing.


  1. Set up with your feet hip width apart and the kettlebell in front of you. 
  2. Bend over and grasp the kettlebell. Keep your back flat and your core braced.
  3. Inhale as you shift your weight slightly into your heels (it’s important to keep your entire foot rooted to the floor throughout these swings).
  4. Press your shoulders down and pull the kettlebell back between the legs. Use your glutes to forcefully float it up in front of you to about eye height. This is an explosive movement and it’s important to keep your core braced and spine straight the entire time. Exhale as you drive up to your standing position and inhale as you hinge your hips back with the kettlebell between your legs.


If you’re new to kettlebell swings, start with 3 sets of 20 at a fairly light weight. It should be light enough that you can keep your back flat and in a good position, but heavy enough that you need that hip thrust to float the weight up. In time, you can add more reps and more weight.


For a pain-free life and to address the root causes of tennis elbow and more, enroll in the MoveU Membership where you can explore educational anatomy videos, exercises and stretches. We’ve got a program for every area of your body.



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