Alleviating Pickleball Elbow: 5 Effective Exercises for Recovery and Prevention

Alleviating Pickleball Elbow: 5 Effective Exercises for Recovery and Prevention

Nov 19, 2023Tom Parker

Pickleball elbow, often referred to as "tennis elbow," is a common overuse injury among pickleball players. It manifests as pain and discomfort on the outer part of the elbow and can significantly impact a player's performance and overall enjoyment of the game.

To overcome and prevent pickleball elbow, incorporating specific exercises into your fitness routine is crucial. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the five best exercises to help with pickleball elbow, offering relief and reinforcing your arm's strength and stability.

Understanding Pickleball Elbow

Before we dive into the exercises, it's essential to understand what pickleball elbow is and what causes it. Pickleball elbow is a type of tendinopathy, typically affecting the tendons in the forearm, particularly the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) tendon. It results from repetitive gripping, wrist extension, and forearm rotation motions, which are common in pickleball.

The condition is characterized by symptoms such as:

  • Pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow: This is the primary symptom of pickleball elbow. It can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, especially during pickleball matches or when gripping objects.
  • Weakness in the affected arm: You might experience a weakened grip strength, making it challenging to hold the paddle or perform everyday tasks.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion: Your affected arm may feel stiff, and you might struggle with movements that require wrist extension or forearm rotation.

The Role of Exercise in Managing Pickleball Elbow

Exercise is a fundamental component of managing and preventing pickleball elbow. Targeted exercises can help in various ways:

  • Strengthening the affected muscles: Exercises help improve the strength of the forearm and wrist extensor muscles, reducing the strain on the affected tendons.
  • Promoting blood flow and healing: Engaging in exercises can enhance blood circulation to the injured area, facilitating the healing process.
  • Improving flexibility and range of motion: Specific stretches and exercises can enhance the flexibility and range of motion in your wrist and forearm, reducing stiffness and discomfort.
  • Preventing future injuries: Regular exercise can build resilience in the affected muscles and tendons, lowering the risk of recurrent injuries.

Now, let's delve into the five best exercises to help with pickleball elbow. It's essential to note that you should consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist before starting any exercise program, especially if you're currently experiencing pain or discomfort.

1. Wrist Flexor Stretch

Picture of person doing a wrist flexor stretch

Purpose: This stretch targets the wrist flexor muscles, which often become tight and contribute to pickleball elbow.

How to do it:

  • Extend your arm straight out in front of you, palm facing up.
  • Use your opposite hand to gently pull your fingers downward, bending your wrist.
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds while feeling a stretch in your wrist and forearm.
  • Repeat this stretch on both arms for 2-3 sets.

2. Forearm Pronation/Supination

Purpose: This exercise strengthens the muscles in your forearm and improves wrist stability, reducing strain on the elbow tendons.

How to do it:

  • Image of pronation and supination with a weight for tennis elbow management
    Sit in a chair with your forearm resting on your thigh or on a table, palm facing downward.
  • Hold a light dumbbell or a can of soup (or any weighted object) in your hand.
  • Rotate your wrist to move the weight from a palm-up to a palm-down position. This motion mimics the forearm rotation used during pickleball play.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions with each arm.

3. Grip Strengthener

Purpose: Strengthening your grip can help reduce the strain on your wrist and forearm, alleviating pickleball elbow.

How to do it:

  • Image of hand squeezing a ball for management of pickleball elbow pain
    Hold a stress ball or a specialized grip strengthener in your hand.
  • Squeeze the ball or grip strengthener as tightly as you can for a few seconds.
  • Release and relax your grip.
  • Repeat the squeezing and releasing for 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions with each hand.

4. Wrist Extension with Resistance Band

Purpose: This exercise focuses on wrist extension, improving the strength and stability of your wrist and forearm.

How to do it:

  • person using a theraband to do wrist extension exercises for pickleball elbow
    Secure a resistance band to a sturdy object, such as a doorknob or a post.
  • Hold the other end of the band with the affected hand.
  • Stand or sit with your arm extended in front of you, palm facing down.
  • Slowly pull your wrist back, extending it against the resistance of the band.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat the extension movement.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions with the affected hand.

5. Eccentric Wrist Flexor Exercise

Purpose: This exercise specifically targets the wrist flexor muscles, which are often overused and strained in pickleball.

How to do it:

  • person doing an eccentric wrist flexion exercise for pickleball elbow pain
    Hold a lightweight dumbbell (around 1-2 pounds) in the hand of your affected arm.
  • Sit with your forearm resting on your thigh or on a table, palm facing down.
  • Use your opposite hand to assist in lifting the dumbbell into a flexed wrist position.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell with your affected hand, resisting the gravitational force. This eccentric contraction works the wrist flexors.
  • Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions with the affected hand.

Additional Tips for Managing Pickleball Elbow

While these exercises are effective in managing pickleball elbow, here are some additional tips to support your recovery and prevention efforts:

  • Rest and Recovery: Allow your arm to rest and recover between pickleball matches or practice sessions, especially if you've experienced pain or discomfort.
  • Warm-Up and Cool Down: Prior to playing, engage in a thorough warm-up routine to prepare your muscles and tendons for action. After playing, cool down with gentle stretches to reduce muscle tension.
  • Add compression: Especially while playing, compression supports the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Body Helix makes comfortable and effective elbow compression products.
  • Proper Technique: Ensure your pickleball stroke techniques are sound and that you're not overexerting

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