It’s important to keep strengthening and stretching our lower arms and elbow joints. By keeping the muscles and tendons around the elbow and arm (upper and lower) strong and supple we can help prevent common injuries like tennis elbow. Did you know that as many as 1 in 3 people have this condition at any one time and only a relatively small number of them play tennis! So surely, it’s worth trying to do something to prevent it.
Tennis elbow can occur after strenuous or repetitive overuse of the muscles and tendons around the elbow joint and forearm. Usually causing pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow when lifting or bending the arm, gripping things like a pen, twisting to turn a door knob or take a lid off a pot; even just fully extending the elbow joint can be stiff and painful. Tiny tears can develop in the muscle fibres on the outside of your elbow (similar to golfer’s elbow, where wear and tear results in pain on the inner side of the joint). The fibres become inflamed and rest, along with reducing the inflammation, is recommended to repair the damage. The pain is really a sign to stop doing the activity and let your body heal itself. This can often take several weeks or months.
Keeping the arm supple and strong can help to prevent this happening. Strengthening exercises that work the muscles of the forearm (and upper arm too) alongside some stretching are ideal.
As I said earlier, anyone can get tennis elbow; it doesn’t have to be from a racquet sport. Any repetitive action on this joint can cause it. Apparently, only 5% of tennis elbow cases are caused by playing a racquet sport! Any repetitive activity such as decorating, playing the violin and gardening can be the cause. Perhaps it could be used as a good excuse to get out of doing that large pile of ironing too, or painting the living room ceiling! One of the key things when exercising and generally using this joint, is to not let the joint lock right out in a straight position. Maintain control through the joint and keep a little bit of flexion in the elbow, particularly when using weights or doing weight bearing exercises that might lead to the joint locking back fully extended. By the way, this is also true for the back of the knees.
So when thinking about whether to fit in this week’s workout, aptly named, ‘Arms & Abs’, remember we are not only looking at giving a beautifully toned look to our upper arms (I do love to see a bit of tone there – I find myself checking my biceps in the mirror when brushing my teeth; it’s a great time to check especially if you want to see if the exercises you’ve been doing are working!), we are also working to stretch and strengthen around our elbow joint and forearm!
Many of us will suffer from tennis or even golfer’s elbow even if we’ve never played either sport. Regular strengthening and stretching exercises can help.