A fenale tennis player holding her elbow in pain

How to Treat Tennis Elbow at Home


Tennis Elbow can be a really nasty injury and can stop you from being able to play the game you love.

Thankfully it is a very common and treatable condition and we’ve got you covered with some top strategies for spotting the signs of the injury, stopping the pain and getting you back to your best on the court.

Tennis Elbow Treatments

Often, if picked up early enough, you can treat tennis elbow at home. However, if it feels like it’s not easing up or improving then we suggest you visit your GP for further advice.

Use the RICE Method

As stated previously, the onset of Tennis Elbow can be hard to detect at first, as the feelings of pain and discomfort take some time to manifest over several months. However, once you do notice your symptoms, the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method should be your go-to tool for feeling better.

Rest

Unfortunately, tennis elbow is one of those things you can’t ‘just push through’. You need to rest the affected arm.A man resting on the grass

  • Take note of the warning signs of stress, overuse, and fatigue
  • When you start to experience any of the warning signs it’s time to rest the arm
  • Look at changing the grip on your racquet and if at all possible try using your other arm more
  • Taking time out to rest can reduce the symptoms, especially if there’s inflammation.

First of all, you should stop the repetitive movements that caused the condition in the first place (Rest). This period of rest can be aided by the use of ice early on to help control swelling and is most effective within 24 to 48 hours after swelling sets in.

Ice

A good approach to using ice is to apply it to your forearm for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, at least once per day.

Right when you start feeling the uncomfortable tingle of Tennis Elbow, put ice on it. This will reduce the swelling and increase the blood flow to these muscles. If you have an ice pack, that’s great—if not, just go the old favorite- a bag of frozen vegetables. You can also freeze a paper cup with water.

Make sure there’s something between the ice and your bare skin, as you don’t want to run that up and down your arm without a towel. Ice for twenty minutes a day and make sure not to over ice, as that will only make it worse.

For a more professional approach, you can purchase an ice pack.

Man treating his elbow with an ice pack

Compression

You can use an elastic bandage as a compressor for the inflamed area providing some relief. Have a supply of elastic bandages at home and in the car, as part of your first aid kit

You will need some assistance wrapping it, making sure the arm and elbow are wrapped correctly.

As simple as it sounds the compression from an elastic bandage helps support the joint and keeps the damaged tendons in place. It also plays a role in reducing any inflammation.

There are other treatments available but they require professional or medical intervention and help treat tennis elbow to a degree. These include:

  • Heat therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Low-level laser therapy
  • Blood injection
  • Botulinum toxin

It’s important to note that while it might start off as a slight pain or some discomfort, tennis elbow can become a serious condition, often needing surgery to treat it. It’s in your best interest to be aware of any unusual aches and pains in your elbow, forearm and wrist areas and treat them sooner rather than later.

Elevation

Keep the injured arm above the level of your heart whenever possible, this will help to reduce the swelling.

Once you believe you have recovered from your case of Tennis Elbow, it is then important to rest properly between workouts. Rest is the final step in our formula for getting better, as this is what allows the worn-down tissue to repair itself.

Perform Exercises and Stretches

Like most things, prevention is the best possible cure if your arms were strong enough, you wouldn’t experience the condition in the first place.

Doing sets of exercises that focus on your arms, back, neck, and upper body is the sure-fire way to reduce the chances of Tennis Elbow from happening again.

Additionally, even when you actually have the condition, doing some light, controlled, exercises can really help in the recovery process.

Follow the exercises in this video:

Soak in Epsom salts

Epsom salts are one of those miracle cures known for their anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxing properties and they help relieve the pain associated with tennis elbow.

  • Fill a sink or tub with warm water and add ½ to 1 cup of the Epsom salts to the water
  • Keep your elbow and forearm in the water for 15-20 minutes
  • Depending on the severity you can do this two to three times a week

Epsom salts contain magnesium which helps reduce the fatigue and tension and the salt itself draws out excess fluids from the inflammation.

Magical Magnesium

Muscle tension and fatigue is what makes tennis elbow particularly painful. Magnesium, as mentioned above, reduces both.

  • Add or increase magnesium-rich foods in your diet
  • Take a magnesium supplement

Magnesium not only reduces the fatigue and tension in the muscle, it also increases nerve function.

Over the Counter!

There are a lot of over the counter remedies that will instantly ease your suffering. Advil and Tylenol are going to be your best friend the next couple of days as they’ll numb the pain and make it possible to keep playing if you really want. Also, try some topical ointments like Icy Hot or BenGay —these are available as both creams and patches.

They feel strange at first, but they relax the nerves so you won’t feel constant pain throughout the day. Remember: always use the directed amount of these drugs on the back of the box. It might seem like more is better, but in fact overusing these over-the-counter remedies will decrease their effectiveness and add on harmful side-effects.

Brace Yourself!

Tennis player wearing an elbow braceBuy a tennis elbow brace online like the SIMIEN Tennis Elbow Brace. This high-rated brace will keep your arm steady and take the strain off your muscles when you’re playing tennis. It’s comfortable and breathable, so you can even wear it when you’re not playing if you’re experiencing a lot of discomfort.

These braces are relatively inexpensive, so trying one is always a good option right when you’re experiencing the pain. Once your form improves, you’ll no longer have to worry about the discomfort of tennis elbow.

Get a New Racquet

One possible reason you’re experiencing Tennis Elbow is that your tennis racquet isn’t the right one for your play style. You need to choose a tennis racquet that’s easy to lift, comfortable to hold and the right size for your body.

If your racquet is too big/heavy, it will put unnecessary strain on your wrist and you’ll be unable to perform at your fullest. We wrote an article about how to best choose a racquet to mitigate Tennis Elbow that we’re sure you’ll find helpful. If you can get a racquet that is actively keeping your arm healthy, you won’t need to worry about the pain accompanying Tennis Elbow.

Improve Your Form

The main reason for Tennis Elbow is improper playing form. If you can get private lessons, you’ll be able to address exactly what you’re doing that’s causing your tennis elbow. Maybe it’s your serve, your backhand, or your forehand—whatever the cause, a second opinion is going to allow you to diagnose what the problem is.

If you can’t afford a private teacher at this time, videotape yourself playing and you’ll be able to get a good look at what might be wrong with your playing form. Once you fix your form, you’ll notice an increase in comfort as you play.

If that doesn’t work: Go to the Doctor

If your tennis elbow persists, you should go to the doctor and get it treated by a medical professional. There are two things the doctor might do: steroid injections and surgery.

The first is by far more common. These steroids aren’t the ones you hear about weightlifters using—no, they actually help the muscles and tendons heal faster Usually, you’ll go to the doctor once or twice a week to get a steroid injection.

If this proves to be insufficient, surgery might be an option as a last resort. It may sound scary, but a Tennis Elbow surgery is quick, easy and often an out-patient procedure. Your insurance could cover some of the cost and you’ll be able to get back to your full playing potential.

In America, around 3% of the population will suffer from tennis elbow every year, especially people between the ages of 30 and 50.

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