Tennis Elbow is a term for pain near the elbow that is caused by overuse of the lateral muscles of the forearm. This results in the tendons around this muscle to become overloaded, sending pain signals to the brain to decrease activities that fire up these muscles. Clients experiencing this type of pain report that they are usually experiencing symptoms only on one side at a time, suggesting to me that there is a movement or motion they are repeating predominantly with a favored side of their body. As humans we naturally take the path of least resistance, so we will usually hold our toothbrush in the same way each day, eat with the same hand positions of our utensils, and hold our steer wheel while we drive in a way that feels familiar to us. Hand gripping and clenching movements are the ones that will intensify this pain, so holding a coffee cup all day, chopping and cooking often, and constantly using a computer mouse are going to be examples of repeated motions that will activate this injury.
There is nothing wrong with creating routine and structures for the processes we integrate into our lives, but in our culture of “go, go, go” and “more, better, faster” we don’t allow our bodies the rest and the counteractivity that it needs in order to recuperate and recover properly. One of the prescriptions for tennis elbow is rest and icing the affected area, but for someone like me, who thrives on activity – I went in search of another remedy.
Here are some stretches and exercises that will assist in strengthening surrounding areas and stretch out the tense and overused muscles:
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First we have “eagle pose” or Garudasana. Cross your right arm over your left arm, hinge at your elbows to about 90 degrees and depending on your flexibility, try to get your left fingers or palm into your right palm. Activate your hands, fingers, wrists and forearms. Refrain from clenching or grabbing. Remain in the pose for 5-10 slow breaths. Repeat with the left arm crossed over the right. (For the full expression of the pose, with the left arm under the right, cross your left leg over your right, reaching your left toes to the calf of your right leg. Switch sides when you switch arms)
Wrist stretch: With the fingers of your right hand to the sky, back of the hand facing you, bend at the wrist and gently pull your fingers with your left hand toward your face. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths. Release and send your right fingers toward the floor, back of the hand facing away from you. Push the palm of the right hand, hinging at the wrist, toward you for 5-10 slow breaths. Release and repeat both exercises on the left hand.
Bound forward fold: I love this stretch for so many reasons and I do it multiple times a day. Stand with feet hip distance apart, interlace your hands behind your back. Hinge at the hips and send your chest forward, keeping your hands and wrists touching (not clenching!). Bend your knees as much as you need to for your abdomen to touch your thighs, and then start to send your hands up and over your head while you start to slowly let your knees straighten. Let your head and neck hang relaxed, roll your shoulders toward and away from your neck. While maintaining the bind of your hands, keep reaching them toward the floor, without overextending at the elbow. Repeat with opposite thumb on top, 5-10 slow breaths each time, allowing the spine to reset and rest between stretches.