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Tennis Elbow

Nurse Susan provides advice on weight training if you have tennis elbow.

Ignoring the misleading title, tennis elbow is not necessarily a tennis-related injury. Instead, it is a prevalent elbow-related affliction that can strike anyone from weightlifters to computer users in equal amounts. Medically known as lateral epicondylitis, this painful inflammation of damaged tendons is caused by repetitive motions which can force an abrupt standstill to your weight training routine overnight. So what can you do? Do not miss this informative guide to understand your options better and avoid exacerbating your injury.

Seek Medical Diagnoses

The only way one can approach their specific injury correctly is to unearth the fundamental issue first and foremost. At any sign of persistent elbow pain, please make an appointment to meet with your doctor, and get him/her to analyse the problem. Under their guidance, you can make an educated decision on whether to move forward with any training, to rest up safely, or if your case is severe enough to warrant some physiotherapy and medication.

Knowing Your Injury

After the conversation mentioned above, with your medical professional has uncovered the root cause of your current trauma, you should easily be able to work out where you went wrong and what to avoid as a result. If your injury stems from heavy lifting, then your old weight training routine is out of the question. However, if this is a sporting development, select weightlifting workouts could be good for your rehabilitation, as you have more control over your elbow in this scenario, unlike the unpredictable nature of certain sports. And finally, if your strain is computer-related, careful weight activities should not be a problem.

Daily Life Adjustments

If you spend the majority of your day sitting at a desk, research any ergonomic equipment which may ease your condition, and maintain a keen awareness of your posture at all times. You may also want to consider wearing a tennis elbow brace as this will restrict any unwanted movements while distributing pressure away from the tendon. Furthermore, enjoying a regular massage will aid your circulation, and do not forget to shower safely while injured, using a back scrubber to minimize any exaggerated or awkward motions that worsen your injury.

Warming Up

Once you have received the go-ahead from your doctor, you can slowly re-enter the world of routine exercising. More now than ever, it is imperative for you to warm-up and stretch your body before launching into any upper body training, so start by getting the blood pumping through your legs and core first. Once your muscles are flexible and ready, introduce some very light weightlifting and build up from there. Stretching your wrists 4 to 5 times a day is also highly recommended.

Cut Back

No matter where you currently are within your tennis elbow torment, the last thing you want to do is push yourself so hard that you derail your already slow recovery time. Reduce any resistance by lightening the load, performing fewer reps, and treating yourself too much longer periods of rest. Remember to get plenty of sleep as this is when your main restoration takes place and be satisfied that your cautious schedule is better than nothing because if you overload yourself, nothing is all you will be able to do.

Use Dumbbells Rather than Barbells

If you are sure that you can proceed with your weightlifting training, there are still further dos and don'ts to consider. For example, many experts agree that it is best to abstain from the use of barbells, as people tend to increase the load when using two hands. Instead focus your training on dumbbells, as this will be more difficult to lift beyond your current capabilities.

Listen to Your Pain

Some dull throbbing is expected during any worthwhile weightlifting routine. Still, if you experience a sharp, persistent pain in the worrisome area, then it is in your best interest to stop what you are doing immediately and try a different approach. Naturally, this is very frustrating for anyone. Still, you cannot ignore the fact that you are injured, and when your body is crying out for help, you need to listen to avoid developing something more serious, or perhaps even permanent.

Other Fitness Avenues to Explore

If you have been warned against any weightlifting exercises, or if you would rather be safe than sorry, you should not use this as an excuse to escape the fitness game completely. Instead, find new and exciting ways to explore your physical health without relying on weight training to get your fix, as this will keep your general fitness levels up, and can even speed your recovery. Look into cardio solutions such as running, cycling, or swimming, as well as any low-impact classes available at your gym, like yoga or martial arts.

Temperature Therapy

After your workout or even at any sign of pain, you might find some relief by applying cold to the bothered region for 10 to 15 minutes, either via an ice pack or by merely wrapping ice cubes in a towel to avoid burning yourself. On the other side of this technique, try soaking your arm in warm water as this may prove to be an even more beneficial method, relaxing your muscles with the heat while promoting more substantial blood flow. Experiment with both sides of the temperature scale and see which one provides the maximum relief for you.


Finally, if the pain becomes unbearable, you could look towards painkillers to ward off the agony and help you achieve some more comfortable rest. However, if you are going down this route, you must stop all weightlifting immediately, as these physical sensations are warning signs, and by turning them off, you may risk further trauma. Instead, use any medication in conjunction with your rest periods, and always read the label, meticulously following the instructions for your safety. Furthermore, if your symptoms do not improve within 2 to 4 weeks, go back to your doctor and re-examine your options.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • NURSE, S. (2018) Tennis Elbow [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Nurse Susan has always been passionate about helping people heal. After she retired from a lifelong career as a nurse, that passion did not go away. She loves to use her expertise to write about the best ways to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.