If you know the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, you are probably praying that you’ve done enough of the former that you’ll never have to test the latter. And why not? Keeping the body healthy and spry is a much better way to live than scrambling to figure out how to recover from pains and ailments that can sometimes arise from inadequate care of the self. For instance, keeping our metabolism and cardio up by walking a bit every day can go a long way toward helping avoid some circulatory problems later on – provided, of course, that we keep this going at a consistent rate and don’t slack off. Much easier than regretting not having done anything when it’s already too late.
Joint pain is one of the more commonly complained about ailments, even in the modern age where we’ve developed fast-acting ways to deal with other common ailments like allergies. This is not hard to picture, given that our joints are among the hardest-working parts of our bodies. Our ankles and knees have to deal with supporting, transferring and balancing our body weight across a variety of actions. Our elbows, on the other hand, are key elements in the system that allows our hands to do what they have to do. As such, when we have overuse ailments like ulnar nerve entrapment or tennis elbow, a lot of what we can normally do grinds to a halt. Preventing this, thus, is the way to go.
Where Does Elbow Pain Come From?
One common source of elbow pain is the entrapment of the ulnar nerve, which runs from the neck down to the arm, through a lot of bones and muscle matter. Damage or compression of this nerve can happen due to a number of factors, particularly the compression of the cubital tunnel at the medial epicondyle (or the inside of the elbow) or Guyon’s canal (where the nerve goes from the arm to the hand), that the nerve runs through. There aren’t a lot of structures or tissue layers in these areas to shield the nerve from getting pinched, and as such keeping the elbow bent for a long period of time or sleeping on it wrong – or having another injury create swelling in the area – can pinch the nerve and cause aching in the area.
Then there’s tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis, which is another overuse injury that can affect everyone from tennis players to those who’ve never heard of the sport. This causes pain on the outside of the elbow or forearm, and typically also results from overuse of the joint – which can occur as a result of day to day work. Medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow, is similarly possible for anyone from golfers to non-golfers, and affects the flexor tendons to cause pain on the inside of the elbow or forearm. If it’s too late to prevent pain from setting in, consult your doctor, because there might still be exercises you can do to minimize the pain or help rehabilitate the joint and keep elbows healthty. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to fortify the joint ahead of time to prevent pain from becoming as bad as it can get.
There are exercises to minimize the likelihood of pain from one ailment or another, and some to strengthen the joint in general, and keep elbows healthy.
- Wrist Curls
- Sit with your forearm on a table, and with your hand hanging off the edge palm up.
- Hold a 1-2 pound weight in your hand – a water bottle, a can of food, or a dumbbell.
- Slowly bend your wrist to raise and lower the weight, while keeping your forearm on the table and your palm facing up.
- Repeat this up to 12 times, then switch arms.
- Go another round for each arm, this time with the palm facing down toward the floor. The same motion and the same rules apply.
- Stress Squeeze
- This works with a stress ball, a tennis ball, or even a fresh balled-up pair of socks. Hold the ball or sock ball in your right hand, and make a fist around it. Squeeze it in your fist.
- Hold this for 5-6 seconds, relax for 10 seconds, then go again. Repeat this process up to 12 times.
- Repeat the process with your left hand.
- Wrist Deviation
- Sit with your forearm supported by a table but with your hand hanging off the edge.
- Hold your hand out vertically like you’re reaching to shake hands. Move the hand up and down at the wrist while keeping your forearm on the table.
- Repeat this up to 12 times, then switch arms. Two repetitions for each hand can be done.
- Bicep Curls
- Sit in a chair, leaning forward with your legs slightly spread.
- Put your left hand on your left thigh and your right elbow on your right thigh.
- Hold the weight in your right hand, with your forearm horizontal.
- With a curling motion, slowly bring the weight up to your chest.
- Repeat this up to 12 times, then switch arms.
Many of these exercises to keep elbows healthy can also be done to start recovering from existing elbow pain, as most of them strengthen the surrounding muscles to take the strain off the elbow. Do note that if pain reoccurs – or if any of the exercises cause pain – you should stop the exercise immediately and refer to your physician.
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