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5 Exercises for Elbow Pain

Pain in the elbow is often described with descriptive sports language like “tennis elbow” (outer elbow pain) or “golfer’s elbow” (inner elbow pain). These sports related terms were coined because athletes and participants in these sports often utilized the elbow joints more often than the average person leading to overuse injuries. These popular sports can often cause hyperextension of the joints leading to pain.

You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow however, tendonitis in the elbow can be caused by almost any repetitive motion. In fact, since the increase of computer desk jobs a new repetitive motion injury name has been coined, “mouse elbow.”  Mouse elbow is pain in the elbow joint from the repetitive motion of using a computer mouse for hours every day at a desk job. 

It is less common than other joints -- like knees and wrists -- to have arthritis in the elbow, but it is possible. If a repetitive motion injury seems unlikely for you, it could be you have developed arthritis in the elbow. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen to prevent further injury to a joint. There is always a possibility that a fracture or sprain is causing the pain in the elbow.

No matter where your elbow pain stems from, you can help alleviate the discomfort with stretching and strength building exercises; of course, an Elbow Compression Sleeve also helps!

5 Exercises to Ease Pain in the Elbow

Fist clench. A common contributor to elbow pain, especially in computer-related repetitive motion issues, is a weak grip. Strengthening the forearm muscles will both improve your grip strength and provide stability in the forearm section of the elbow joint.

To perform this exercise you will need a towel or a tennis ball and a flat surface like a table, chair, or exercise bench. If you are using a towel, roll up the towel into a tube that is small enough to fit in your hand. The easiest way to perform this is to sit at a table, but it can be modified to wherever you are.

Sitting facing the table, place your forearm flat against the top of the table with your palm facing up. Put the towel or tennis ball into your hand and squeeze for 10 seconds. Release and repeat 10 times. Switch to the other arm and repeat the sequence.

Towel Twist. This gentle motion is a great way to stretch and strengthen wrist extensors and wrist flexors which help strengthen the forearm and ease elbow pain. This exercise can be done seated in a chair or standing. You will need a hand towel (or a tshirt could be used in a pinch). Grab the rolled-up hand towel with both hands at opposite ends of the towel. Keep your shoulders relaxed and twist the towel in opposite directions with each hand. The motion is similar to if you were trying to wring water out of the towel by twisting the middle. Repeat the motion 10 times in each direction.

Soup Can Extensions. These wrist flexion exercises can be done with a small dumbbell (appoximately 2-5 lbs is best), but you may not always have access to dumbbells. You can also perform these exercises with your lunch --  a can of soup! You also can perform these movements without weight if you don’t have access or it is too difficult with the weight. 

Similar to the first exercise, place your forearm flat on a table with your arm bent. What’s different this time is that you will want your hand to be off of the edge of the table so you can fully move your wrist. You can also perform this exercise sitting and  resting your bent elbow on your knee.

For a wrist extension, place the forearm and palm facing down. Grip the soup can or dumbbell and curl your hand downwards and towards the body. If this is too difficult or painful, you can also perform this motion with no weight.

For a wrist flexion, start with the forearm and palm facing up. With the can or dumbbell in hand, curl the wrist upwards and towards the body. Again, this can be performed without the weight if it is too difficult. You can always work your way towards using weight.

Perform both wrist extension and wrist flexion 10 to 20 times each on both arms.

Supination. The supinator muscle is a forearm muscle that helps the wrist make turning motions. It is heavily used in sports that cause elbow pain like tennis. Supination exercises help to strengthen this muscle and reduce strain on the elbow and wrist joints.

You can use a soup can or a small 2 pound dumbbell. Grab hold of the can or dumbbell at the end of it, rather than around the middle. Sit in a chair with your elbow resting comfortably on your knee and the palm holding the can or dumbbell vertically towards the ceiling. Without picking up your elbow, turn your wrist so the palm is facing downwards. If you find yourself unable to grip the weight, try this motion without weight first. Move the palm back and forth in this motion 20 times then repeat on the other arm.

Elbow Bend. The elbow bend exercise will improve your elbow flexion and range of motion in the arms. It is great for both athletes and desk job workers. Start by sitting upright in an armless chair or standing. Make sure you have a straight spine with relaxed shoulders. Extend one arm straight down, parallel to the body. Keeping the arms tucked into your sides, bend the elbow on one arm until the hand can touch the shoulder. Hold the arm bent for 15 to 30 seconds and release. Repeat this 10 times and then perform the entire process on the other arm.

If you feel your shoulders start to creep up towards your ears, concentrate on squeezing the shoulder blades together on your back. This should keep the shoulders down and avoid any strain in the neck or top of the shoulders.

Hopefully those exercises go a long way to helping build up your strength and purge your Elbow Pain over time.  If you need additional help along the way be sure to check out our Elbow Sleeve!