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Tennis Elbow

Carpenters Wellness CenterSenad Sabanagic, DPT | Jun 03, 2024

An injury that’s not just for tennis players.

A very common diagnosis to treat at the Carpenters Wellness Center since I’ve been working as the physical therapist has been lateral epicondylitis. More commonly known as Tennis Elbow, it’s pain on the outside of your forearm or elbow which hurts with moving your wrist and fingers to grip or handle objects. In this past year I’ve had zero carpenters who play tennis but hundreds that swing hammers. It is very common in physical therapy to have patients with this condition despite not playing tennis or any racket sport. 

Let’s talk about why this may be happening to you as a carpenter. The muscles and bones that hurt with tennis elbow have a few functions: extend our fingers and wrist, rotate our forearm, and bend our elbow. If you are working in the field you most likely do these functions often when using power tools, hammers, or carrying material. Healthcare providers outside of the wellness center might just tell you to stop doing these aggravating activities, however, we at the CWC understand that’s typically not an option most may have. So let’s talk about some modifications you can make at work that may be more reasonable than just avoiding all painful activity. 

  1. Hammering: Swap between hammers to find a more comfortable weight or grip circumference that will place those muscles in a more favorable position with gripping on to it. Modify your swinging to make sure you’re not overusing your wrist and “getting enough help” from your larger upper arm muscles while hammering.
  2. Carrying or using power tools: Adjust your body position to make sure you’re carrying things closer to your body. This strategy actually makes what you’re carrying lighter by decreasing the lever arm on your elbow so that the 5-pound power tool doesn’t become 20 pounds of force on your elbow. 
  3. Do some daily wrist/hand exercises until it calms down: You can stretch your extensor muscles by flexing your wrist and fingers while keeping your elbow straight. Take a frozen dixie cup and use the ice to massage your elbow right where it hurts for about 3-5 minutes until the area feels numb to manage the inflammation. 

Check out our social pages (Facebook / Instagram) for June’s tip to see more specific details on what sort of exercises you can do for your elbow/forearm pain with just a few simple things you may have lying around the house, including a hair scrunchie/rubber band and your hammer! 

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