Treating Tennis Elbow: Pain Relief Techniques

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier offers a three-step therapeutic process to relieve pain from tennis elbow and prevent a recurrence of the condition.

Ball Squeeze

Spring is the season for baseball, softball, lacrosse, field events like the javelin and the discus, and (in most schools) tennis. It's also the season for tennis elbow. Repetitive movements in these spring sports make athletes more susceptible to the condition. (Read more on STACK's Tennis Elbow page.)

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that causes pain on the outer side of the elbow when grasping or twisting an object. If you are suffering from tennis elbow, try this three-step therapeutic approach to get back in the game. (See also How to Cure Tennis Elbow.)

Ice Massage

Ice applications (cryotherapy) and massage therapy both relieve pain. When they are combined in a technique called ice massage, you get the best of both worlds for eliminating muscle and joint aches.

To reduce muscle and joint inflammation, health professionals generally recommend 10- to 20-minute on-and-off ice applications as a standard course of treatment during the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury.

Rather than placing an ice pack on the outside of the elbow, perform ice massage by gently rubbing ice around the tender area. Instead of using ice cubes, fill a paper cup with water and freeze it. Start the ice massage by slowly rolling the top of the cup around the sore area and gradually peeling away the cup paper as the ice melts during the application.

Try ice massage three times daily for two consecutive days at the onset of tennis elbow pain. Following each ice massage, apply a mixture of apple cider vinegar and olive oil on the achy elbow.

Apple Cider Vinegar/Olive Oil Applications

Like ice massage, a mix of apple cider vinegar and olive oil constitutes another therapeutic technique to reduce tennis elbow pain. Apple cider vinegar and olive oil contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants. The vinegar has potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. Potassium works especially well to deter joint stiffness. Olive oil has anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one tablespoon of olive oil and gently rub the mixture on the sore elbow following each ice massage. Allow the vinegar and oil to soak into the skin to erase elbow pain.

Ball Squeezes

Once elbow pain subsides, it's important to strengthen the forearm muscles around the elbow to prevent a recurrence. For this third step in the process, a tennis ball or other kind of ball can be used. Squeeze the ball for 10 reps to build up the muscles surrounding the elbow. Do 3 sets. Repeat on non-consecutive days throughout the spring season, and prevent tennis elbow from hindering your tennis serve or your performance on the track or the diamond.


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