Stretches for tennis elbow – do they really help?

Tennis elbow can be a frustrating condition to have.  Especially if you don’t even play tennis!

So you have tenderness and pain in the outer point of your elbow and it hurts to grip things or lift things, especially with a palm-down grip.  In the clinic we can confirm if it is indeed lateral epicondylalgia (tennis elbow), but by now I’m thinking, yes, you have tennis elbow.

We treat tennis elbow in the clinic in a variety of ways, depending on how long you’ve had your problem and what we think you’ll tolerate.  We have successfully managed chronic (that is, long-standing) tennis elbow with shockwave treatment, and we’ve successfully settled acute (as in recently acquired) elbow pain with our high powered laser.

But what about stretching?  Does it actually help?

As usual, Yes and No.

Stretching can help with the symptoms and may prepare those tissues for some loading, so Yes it can help with pain and function.

But No in that it will not help you return to being able to grip and lift strongly and without pain.  Only a progressive strengthening program can do that.

Recovering from acute tendonitis will usually require a bit of rest, then gradual return to normal activities, with rehab exercises giving the repairing tissues the guidance or intrinsic ‘instruction’ on how to re-model back into health tissues.  Basically, De-load then RE-load.

Chronic tendon problems, where healthy tissue has gradually changed to unhealthy tissue – most likely because of suboptimal treatment, or constant reaggravation – is called Tendinosis.  This condition requires a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g period of slowly but steadily increasing loading, using a variety of different exercises that build strength and resilience in the tendon.

So keep stretching, by all means.  But don’t expect this to give the tendon greater capacity for loading.

If you’d like us to assist you with managing elbow pain (of all types), we are more than happy to help.  Give us a call!

Meantime, try this little tweak to the standard technique to get just a little more out of the stretch: