Tennis elbow pain can be really annoying, especially if you don’t play tennis!  It can cause sharp discomfort with gripping or twisting motions or just bending your elbow.  Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive strain to the tendons in the upper forearm near the elbow.  This repetitive strain might be from playing tennis or pickleball, but it may also occur with gardening, weight lifting, typing or clicking the mouse, cooking/baking, emptying the dishwasher or even walking your dog!

It astonishes me to hear how long people endure their nagging elbow pain before seeking help, sometimes for years! That’s why it’s common for people to mistakenly believe that their elbow pain is a chronic condition they have to live with, limiting their activities. But don’t worry, there is hope for finding relief, even if you feel like you’ve tried everything. Here are some expert tips from my team to help you get relief and enjoy your activities again.

  1. No Magic Pill / Injection: Over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen (ie. Advil, Motrin) are readily available and provide quick relief,  but they hinder your body’s natural healing. Corticosteroid injections also may initially feel like a miracle cure in the short term, but can actually weaken the tendon.  Both of these solutions may provide a false sense of healing in the short term which can lead to further damage and ultimately create a chronic condition.  


  1. Proper Strengthening Program: While it may take longer than using pills or getting injections, a well-designed strengthening program for your hand, wrist, forearm, and shoulder muscles is the best way to achieve lasting results and regain strength in your arm. This program should be developed and guided by a physical therapist. A good starting point is to focus on improving your grip strength. Try gently gripping a towel, small ball, or putty at different wrist angles, holding for about 5 seconds, and repeating this exercise about 20 times. You may feel slight pain, but you can adjust the intensity of your grip to accommodate it.


  1. Band It: Using a forearm band or strap for the majority of your waking / moving hours will help minimize the repetitive strain on the tendons in the elbow.  BUT, make sure that you are wearing it properly.  I often hear from people that “it didn’t help them”, only later to find out they were not wearing it properly.  The center of the pad should rest about on finger width below the painful spot.  

4. Massage It:  Most people will instinctively grasp or rub an area that is hurt. What they won’t do is rub it long enough.  To get the therapeutic effects, you should massage with moderate pressure to the whole topside of your forearm for about five minutes.  

5. The Problem Is Often NOT The Problem:  Pain at the elbow may just be a symptom of a problem somewhere else.  Let’s stick with a tennis example.  The reason that the elbow is strained is because you’re not hitting the ball in the sweet spot of the racquet…. AAANNNDDD, this is because you are actually not getting to the ball quickly enough.  SOOOO, a necessary factor for having your elbow pain go away for good would be to work on your speed / agility.  Then you can get to the ball faster, hit it on the sweet spot of the racquet and have a stronger shot with less elbow strain.  Extra bonus, you will be nimble and ready for the return shot…if there is one.

6. It Might Be Something Else:   It is important to have your elbow pain properly diagnosed.   No need for X-Ray or MRI right away. A thorough clinical examination by a physical therapist can assess whether you are suffering from tennis elbow or something else.  Due to the limitations of this article, I will stop short of listing the “something else’s” as I do not think you should go randomly consult “Dr. Google”.   The best thing to do is get a consultation with one of our elbow pain specialists.  With our expert assessment, we can then provide you with a plan so you no longer have to wince in pain whenever you’re trying to pick something up.  

To get a list of key exercises, more helpful tips and register for your expert assessment, visit, call us at 973-270-7417 or stop in our office located in the Madison Area YMCA.