You don’t need to hit the green from the tees or possess a wicked forehand to suffer from golfers’ or tennis elbow. Also known as medial and lateral epicondylitis, these common forms of tendinitis are more likely to afflict those who participate in activities far from the links or clay courts. Defined as overuse injuries, these inflammatory conditions don’t require years, months or even days of activity. Overuse occurs when you ramp up your training to an extreme degree, or begin a new activity without a gradual build up. For example, you can train legs at the gym twice a week for a year, but if you increase to seven days a week, within a week, your chances of developing a patellar tendinitis are high.
Epicondylitis derives its name from the attachment site of a collection of muscles referred to as the common wrist extensors and common wrist flexors. The extensor group comes together at a common tendon attaching at the lateral epicondyle, a bony prominence on the outside of the lower section of the bone of the upper arm. The common wrist flexors attach to the medial epicondyle through the common flexor tendon. This is a fancy way of saying the inside and outside of your elbow.
Irritation in these regions is brought on by repetitive, resisted grasping activities. Sound familiar, gi players? The pain is typically sharp and results in decreased grip strength. It can be alleviated with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. Compression bands can decrease pain in some cases. As always, prevention is the key. Try these stretches and strengthening exercise to increase flexibility and strength. It’s worth nothing these conditions can be the result of an undiagnosed neck issue. Always consult your physician and physical therapist prior to beginning any exercise regimen.
To stretch the flexor group on the underside of the forearm, turn your palm up and pull down on your hand so your palm is facing away. You should feel the stretch in the inner part of your forearm up to your elbow. Perform five (5) repetitions, hold for 30 seconds each. To stretch the extensor group, turn your palm down and pull it towards you with your opposite hand. Perform for the same number of repetitions.
One of the best pieces of exercise equipment for developing forearm strength, wrist rollers can be purchased, or fashioned out of wood and rope for your MacGyver types. Roll the weight all the way to the top and then roll all the way back down without allowing gravity to do the work. Attempt 15 repetitions (up and down=1) without screaming.
As if pull-ups weren’t hard enough, do them hanging onto thick towels. Do as many as you can. No one will judge you.
Towel Pull Ups
Written By John Vercher
John is a writer and physical therapist with over ten years of sports medicine and orthopedics experience. He has competed as an amateur in kickboxing and MMA and continues to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments year round.
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