Relief for Tennis Elbow

Nutrition Health Review, Winter 1989 | Go to article overview
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Relief for Tennis Elbow

Relief for Tennis Elbow 12 Tips to Avoid Crippling Effects

Now that tennis has become a perennial sport practiced -- and often malpracticed -- by more than 30 million Americans, physicians should not be surprised to see cases of excruciating tendonitis, whether the snow is flying or the summer sun is beating down.

Dr. Willibald Nagler, chief physiatrist at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, estimates that 20 percent of all players develop tennis elbow each year.

He has found that the root of the problem is amateurism. Unlike pros, amateurs play the game awkwardly and in spurts. Clumsy moves put intolerable strains on affected muscles and tendons, and infrequent but frantic tennis weekends, crammed with set after set, overtax flabby racquet arms.

First the weekender notices mild tenderness and stiffness in wrist and elbow, but if he continues to play the game unwisely and poorly, within four to six weeks he will be unable to bend or rotate these joints without extreme pain. At that point the player has become the patient.

Fortunately, Dr. Nagler finds that almost all cases of tennis elbow can be prevented or ameliorated non-surgically. The two necessary and simple steps: first, consult a good tennis coach or manual to learn proper tennis strokes; and second, condition the racquet arm by proper exercise before trying to play the game with the exertion of a Conners or Borg.

Here's the progressive exercise program he recommends, requiring only a few minutes each day and a set of dumbbells that can be increased a pound at a time from three to eight pounds. Each of the four steps is increasingly difficult, and the player -- or patient -- moves up only after mastering the preceding step.

Step One: Grip firmly a three-pound dumbbell in the playing-arm hand and then place the forearm, palm down, on a firm surface of books or cushions, with the wrist positioned at the edge so that the hand gripping the dumbbell hangs free. Then bend the wrist upward and toward the thumb as far as possible. Hold this position for five seconds, then return to the starting position and rest for three seconds. Repeat this ten times, gradually increasing to fifteen times.

Step Two: Hold the dumbbell as in step one, but with palm up, and bend wrist upward toward the ceiling as far as possible. Hold this position for five seconds, then return to starting position and rest for three seconds.

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