• Rob Olson

"Tackling Tennis Elbow"

One of the most annoying injuries to have may be tennis elbow. It seems like such a minor annoyance yet it affects so many parts of a typical day and workout. Tennis elbow is the irritation of the tendon (connects muscle to bone) which attaches the “gripping muscle” to the outside portion of the elbow. In Crossfit, there are a lot of demands on the gripping muscles so tennis elbow does tend to crop up fairly frequently. There are also a lot of aspects of daily life that can irritate the tendon as well - snow-blowing, raking, power washing, pumping gas, carrying groceries, drinking coffee - all involve intense and/or prolonged gripping.

So somehow you have irritated that tendon - what do you do?

1. Active rest. Do not push through high pain. If power cleaning 65# makes you wince and possibly shed a tear, do not do it. Ask a coach how to modify the movement to decrease the work your gripping muscles have to do. There are so many exercises that can be done at CF that do not involve gripping, so still come to the gym! Exercising increases blood flow which promotes healing.

2. Try Kinesiotape. Several studies have been done that show that wearing Kinesiotape decreases tennis elbow related pain and can speed up recovery. KT tape can be found at CVS. Follow this link for the proper taping technique. The first layer of tape is likely enough but try the second layer for extra support.

3. Deep friction massage. Digging at the elbow where it hurts the most will actually stimulate healing. Use some lotion, spend 5 minutes massaging back and forth over the painful part of the elbow. A practice in mental toughness as well!

4. Isometrics. Isometric strengthening is not a good way to build muscle but it is a great way to build tendon strength. Find a 1-5 pound hand weight which you can hold in your affected hand, lift the wrist up and hold for 45 seconds. Complete this 5 times in a row. It will hurt but that is okay. This is currently the best researched exercise for tendon healing. See picture.

5. Perhaps the reason why your small, gripping muscles are injured is because your larger and stronger back and shoulder muscles are not pulling their weight. See the blog on August 21, 2019 titled “Tight shoulders? Try this!” for methods on how to recruit those bigger muscles. 

Good luck! 

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