Rehabilitation for a tennis elbow injury will require patience, and of course the questions that run through your mind are very simple.
What do I need to do?
How do I do it?
When should I do it?
How long is the rehabilitation for my tennis elbow going to take?
The answer to the last question is – As long as it takes!!
The first thing to remember is that Tennis Elbow becomes a chronic problem if it isn’t looked after properly.
In terms of tennis elbow rehabilitation, there is one absolute rule. You must do nothing until you are experiencing little or no pain, and then the rehabilitation process, and exercises can only proceed providing you have no pain in whatever exercise you are doing.
Before you can start playing tennis properly again you must have restored full strength and mobility to your elbow.
There are three different phases to your tennis elbow rehabilitation, and they can be summarized as follows.
The first phase is to reduce inflammation and pain. You need to do two things here, and the first is to begin the healing process whilst also preventing the associated muscles from wasting.
The process here has four distinct parts.
Rest which means avoiding overusing the injury. You must continue to use the muscles to ensure they don’t waste, and a good blood supply is maintained. The activity must not be painful, if it hurts don’t do it!!
Use Ice all the time until you return to full use, as it lessens inflammation.
Use compression and elevation as it helps the blood supply and also reduces swelling.
In the second phase of tennis elbow rehabilitation, exercise comes into play. It is important to increase your elbow strength, and endurance. You need to get the elbow to function again properly.
This flexibility is achieved primarily by extending the elbow gently without flexing it, and holding the extended position for up to 30 seconds, but NOT to the point of pain, and doing this perhaps twenty times a day.
To strengthen the elbow, sit with your elbow on your knee, and with a weight not exceeding 1 lb. In your hand, and palm downwards flex your wrist up and down slowly. Note that the elbow shouldn’t move at all. Do exactly the same thing with your palm facing upwards.
Another useful exercise is to use a tennis ball, and squeeze it in your hand, and keep doing this.
Remember that there should be no pain.
You should gradually increase the weight as your strength grows, and always use an ice pack afterwards.
The third phase is where you gradually return to playing whilst maintaining and increasing the second phase.
In terms of playing you shouldn’t start until your symptoms are gone, but what you can do in combination with flexibility exercises is to just hit gentle forehands in succession and repeat this with backhands and lobs. If you start with fifteen minute sessions, and increase it to an hour, and you get no pain, then you can start to serve, and then return to competitive tennis.
Remember that in Tennis Elbow Rehabilitation there is no gain with pain!!