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Best Elbow Tendonitis Exercises

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT May 29, 2020 0 Comments

Woman Stretching Elbow

Elbow tendonitis exercises are the perfect way to help manage symptoms, and make it easier to participate in normal daily activities and sports. Whether it’s tennis elbow or golfers elbow, the selection of exercises below are selected to offer maximum benefit, right at home. Keep reading to learn more about elbow tendonitis exercises.

Wrist Stretches

Range of motion is a key component to addressing any wrist or elbow issues regardless of which tissues are primarily affected. Follow these three motions to promote blood flow and flexibility. For each one, move slowly and controlled for a count of 2 in each direction for 10-15 repetitions and up to 3 sets total. If you are struggling with tolerating wrist movement, try warming up the muscle first with a heating pad or reducing pain with an ice pack. 

  • Wrist Extension and Flexion

    Sit in a comfortable position with the forearm supported if needed. Simply straighten the elbow out in front of you with the palm facing down toward the floor. Slowly move the wrist down toward the floor (bending it) and up toward the ceiling. Do not force the motion. Play with the position of your fingers, either straight or in a ball, to get the best stretch.

  • Radial and Ulnar Deviation

    Continuing to keep your elbow straight, now turn your hand so that your thumb is facing up toward the ceiling. This is a very small wrist motion. Keep your entire arm still as you move your wrist side to side, bringing the thumb side up toward the ceiling and then down toward the floor.

  • Wrist Extensors Stretch

    The wrist extensors are the main muscles affected with tennis elbow. To stretch them, start with the elbow out straight and palm facing down. Use the opposite hand to bend the wrist and palm down toward the floor. For a stronger stretch, you can curl your fingers into a fist.

    Hold 20-30 seconds for up to 3 times.

  • Wrist Flexor Stretch

    The wrist flexors are the main muscles affected with golfers' elbows. Start again with the elbow out straight and palm facing down. This time, use the opposite hand to extend the wrist as you bring the top of the hand up toward your forearm. For a stronger stretch, keep all the fingers outstretched (no bend).

    Hold 20-30 seconds for up to 3 times.

Strengthening Exercises

Exercises that focus on forearm strength are crucial for any type of epicondylitis. What you will be able to tolerate with each exercise will depend on which muscles are most affected in your elbow. 

  • Towel twists

    Roll up a towel lengthwise and then twist it tight. Hold the towel in both of your hands directly in front of your chest with the length of the towel parallel to the floor. Your hands should be about 6-12 inches apart. Use your wrist and forearms to twist the towel one direction, before switching back. You will alternate between extending and bending each wrist.

    Rotate in each direction 10 times for up to 3 sets. Adjust how tightly you are gripping if the motion is too painful.

  • Single Arm Bicep Curl

    Sit or stand with a resistance band or small weight in your affected hand with the palm facing up. Focus on completing full range of motion as you bend the elbow and bring the hand toward the shoulder. Return to a fully straight position and repeat. Keep the arm close to your body and progress resistance as tolerated.

    Complete 10 repetitions for up to 3 sets.

  • Wrist Motions With Weights

    The following exercises add a strengthening component to wrist range of motion (listed above). These are all best done with a small weight of ½ to 2 pounds and keeping the forearm supported on your knee or a table. However, make sure the wrist is free to move. Repeat each exercise 10 times for up to 3 sets.

    Wrist Extension

    With the forearm supported, place a weight in your hand with the palm facing down. Extend the wrist up toward the ceiling before letting it slowly fall down toward the floor as the wrist bends. This addresses muscle primarily affected by tennis elbow.

    Wrist Flexion

    With the same setup as above, this time turn the palm to face up toward the ceiling. Then, bend the wrist up toward the ceiling before letting it slowly fall down toward the floor. Repeat. This addresses muscle primarily affected by golfers' elbows.

    Wrist Pronation and Supination

    This time your thumb will be pointing up toward the ceiling to start. Rotate the wrist side to side, letting the palm face the ceiling and then the floor (as far as is comfortable). For additional weight leverage, try holding the bottom of the weight in your hand so that the majority of the weight is above your fist. Alternatively, you can hold the bottom of a hammer too.

    Radial Deviation

    Once again start with the thumb facing up, you will then move the wrist side to side. First, up toward the ceiling and then down toward the floor. The motion should be small and comfortable.

Grip Exercises

The strength required for gripping objects can be affected by epicondylitis. Plus, excessive gripping (such as gripping your steering wheel or tennis racquet too hard) can also aggravate symptoms of epicondylitis. Try these grip exercises to build tolerance and awareness.

  • Power Squeeze

    You can use therapy putty (rolled in a ball), a soft ball, or a rolled towel for this exercise. Place what you will be using in the palm of your hand and squeeze, hold for up to 5 seconds. Do not force the pressure if you experience any pain.

    Repeat 10 times for up to 3 sets.

How Do Exercises Benefit Elbow Tendonitis?

There are many beneficial factors for starting an exercise program. These include:

  • Circulation to promote tendon healing
  • Decreased pain
  • Restored elbow function
  • Increased flexibility and range of motion for daily activities
  • Improved muscle strength and balance
  • Confidence for participating in daily activities
  • Overall improved quality of life

Try These Home Remedies for Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow

Recovery Time

Elbow epicondylitis and the symptoms that come with it do not happen overnight. Recovery will take time as you allow aggravated tissues to heal.

  • You can expect a timeline of 4-6 weeks for a full recovery. If elbow pain and swelling are severe, occasionally it can take several weeks longer.

What’s most important is paying attention to your symptoms and using them as a gauge for when you can proceed with your exercise program.

After an initial period of rest for the tendons, find more treatment options to address pain and swelling here.

Safe Elbow Tendonitis Exercises

Recovering from elbow tendonitis caused by tennis or golfer’s elbow takes patience and a good exercise program. You will be back to your normal activities and sports if you start slowly and build from there. If at any time you’re not sure where to start, please consult your physical therapist or physician for tips.






Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

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