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Home Remedies for Tennis Elbow

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT March 13, 2020 0 Comments

man lifting kettle bell

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, symptoms can be debilitating because of its effect on grip strength and overall arm use. Using home remedies for tennis elbow will help get rid of pain, restore elbow function, and minimize downtime. To start, here are some great options for home remedies for tennis elbow.

RICE Method

This tried and true method is a perfect starting point to address pain, stiffness, and swelling in the elbow. While any of these options will provide relief, combining them will maximize results and rapidly reduce symptoms of tennis elbow.

  • Rest

    Decreasing strain on the affected elbow tissues will allow the body time to properly heal, especially since overuse of the elbow is a common culprit. Try to avoid any activities, particularly repetitive motions, that aggravate your symptoms. Consider completely resting the elbow with a brace or sling if needed.

  • Ice

    Applying an ice pack to the outside of the elbow is a quick way to manage pain and reduce swelling. Shoot for 15-20 minutes (until the area in numb) a few times throughout the day for maximal relief.

  • Compression

    Adding a compression wrap (bonus if combined with ice) will further soothe elbow pain and swelling. The pressure itself will provide comfort while pushing built-up fluid out of the affected area.

  • Elevation

    Keeping your arm elevated above the heart will promote blood flow for healing and swelling management too. If you’re lying down, try propping your arm with a pillow.

Exercise

The right elbow movement with each stage of healing can optimize your recovery. You will start with low complexity movements that promote blood flow and progress to more coordinated moves that allow you to fully return to your normal daily activities. What exercises are best will be a little different for non-athletic injuries versus athletes.

Grip Strengthening

Grip strength is often affected by tennis elbow due to forearm muscle tendon pain. You can use tools like therapy putty and exercise balls to promote hand, wrist, and forearm strength and coordination. This might include exercises like squeezing, wrist flexion/extension, and more.  What you will be able to tolerate at first and how to progress will depend on your symptoms.

Get started with these lifting exercises for tennis elbow.

Stretching

Tennis elbow notoriously comes with a stiff elbow joint and surrounding muscles. The right stretches to address tension in the forearm, wrist, and entire arm can help to quickly reduce pain and restore function. As with any stretch, you will want to pay attention to your symptoms and only push yourself within a tolerable level of discomfort to prevent further injury and aggravation.

Over the Counter Medication

When your injury is new and you are trying to find the best treatment options for your recovery, you may need a boost of relief from medication. Most commonly, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and Aleve, will provide both pain and swelling relief. While these are over the counter, it is important to keep in mind that they come with risk of organ damage with long term use. Use them as needed, but sparingly.  

Hot and Cold Therapy

If your injury is chronic or seems to be an on-again, off-again type of problem, a combination of hot and cold therapy may be best. Alternating between an ice pack and a heating pad, is a great way to promote pain relief, relaxation, and circulation to the elbow. Simply alternate between these two options two to three times throughout your day.  

Elbow Braces

Different types of elbow braces can provide different benefits. Braces to consider include compression sleeves, straps for full coverage braces. A compression sleeve provides little support but can help manage swelling, provide comfort, and give you a constant reminder to modify the use of your arm to promote healing. On the other hand, an elbow brace can provide a little more support to decrease strain and allow rest.

How to Choose the Best Elbow Brace

These braces can be used long term, but ideally, you will be able to return to daily activities without them following proper recovery. Another popular option that provides similar benefits is elbow taping.

Massage

Self-administered massage is a great way to expedite the recovery process.  Most simply, use your opposite hand to rub on sore and stiff muscles. The use of a massage tool, such as a rollerball, is another way to apply pressure with less strain to your hand. Ultimately, massage should leave the area feeling relaxed and blood flow increases.

Learn specific massage techniques for tennis elbow.

When You Need to See a Specialist

Self-care can be pretty straightforward and leave you feeling better fairly quickly. However, sometimes it’s not enough. If you experience any of the following symptoms, discuss other possible conservative treatments with your sports medicine doctor or physical therapist.

  • Pain and symptoms that are affecting your quality of life and ability to participate in your normal daily activities.
  • Moderate to severe pain in the elbow or anywhere else in the arm, especially at night. 
  • Onset of tingling, burning, or numbness in the affected arm.
  • Rapid decrease in strength of the upper arm, wrist, hand, and/or forearm. 
  • Chronic issues that continue to linger or flare up without notice. 

Finding Effective Home Remedies for Tennis Elbow

Home remedies for tennis elbow are simple yet effective for the healing process. Find the options that work best for you and make sure to be consistent with them. Often, you will find a combination of treatments works best for your elbow to work on decreasing pain while restoring function all at once. If you pay attention to your symptoms, you will know exactly where to start and how to progress when you’re ready.

SHOP TENNIS ELBOW PRODUCTS

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

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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