Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Tennis Elbow


appy 4th of July to all my American friends!

Since martial artists repeat certain movements many times over, we’re subject to forms of elbow pain as much as anyone. One of the most common is lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow.

The amazing part though is that we do the stretches and the acupressure points as part of our normal training. So it’s easier for us to - a. prevent tennis elbow from happening; and b. do something about it quickly and efficiently if there is an onset of pain.


Stresses on the tendon either through a. over use or periods of repetitive motion; or b. a sudden heavy stress on the extensor muscles and the tendon either through lifting a heavy weight with a straight elbow or lifting too quickly or too awkwardly with a jerky, uneven motion.

Movements of the forearm that can contribute to tennis elbow:

1.   rotating the forearm and bending the wrist at the same time
2. gripping an object along with an inward or outward movement of the forearm
3.  sharp, jerky movements; also throwing movements
4.  hitting an object with the hand

One of the extensor streches we use in Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, Judo, etc.



The tendon that connects your epicondyle with the muscles is made up of strands of fibers.  The fibers are made of a material called collagen.  In effect, the strands are like fibers of a nylon rope. 

Through wear and tear, degeneration occurs.  The strands of collagen may jumble up or tear - just as fibers in a nylon rope will start to fray. 

Scar tissue may build up as part of the healing process.  If proper care is not taken, the healing process may be incomplete and further damage can be done.  This stage is called angiofibroblastic degeneration.  The tissue remains weak and painful.

I find acupoints Li10 & Li11 help in healing



Though the pain may start at the lateral epicondyle, it can spread down the forearm. Sometimes the condition can be confused with radial tunnel syndrome  where the radial nerve is compressed as it travels across the elbow.


You may have tennis elbow if there is pain associated with the following movements:

1.  When you bend your wrist while trying to straighten the elbow

2.  When you try to straighten the wrist against resistance while straightening the elbow

3.  When you bend the hand back against resistance while straightening the elbow

4.  When you straighten your fingers against resistance

I find that curls with the palms facing down work well



1.  Check with a medical practitioner. 

2.  Ice or a gentle ice massage using frozen water in a paper cup. Ice can relieve pain and inflammation.

3.  Rest.

4.  Gentle stretching only due to the inflammation.  This helps the healing process. 

5.  Gentle sympathetic massage above and below affected area.

6.  Acupressure points.  Press or massage gently.  Avoid rubbing hard.

7.  Isometrics.  These exercises strengthen the area without irritating.

Once the inflammation has been eliminated, gently massage to reduce scar tissue and help the healing process, gradually increase the amount of stretching, and start a program of strength exercises with the gradual use of weights.

The basic standing post helps in healing elbow pain



Determine how the tennis elbow started.  Take steps to change the factors that may have contributed to this condition.  At work, find ways to limit chances of tennis elbow by changing the way you perform some tasks, spreading the workload over a wider area of the body and stretching and massaging before work.  Please make sure that you are aware of your workplace’s safe lifting procedures.

Talk to anyone in your workplace involved in your health and safety.  Check with them whether there are additional safe measures that can be implemented.  

Please watch for future posts on tennis elbow where I’ll discuss specific acupoints, massage, stretches and weights.

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