I’ve had tennis elbow twice– the first time was relatively mild and happened only a few months into getting into tennis in 2008. It happened at a time when I had a few other injuries that forced me to take a month off from tennis altogether, so it healed on its own. The second flare-up in 2010 was much more painful– and much more problematic. At the time, I had a crushing workload and couldn’t imagine taking time to go to physical therapy. I tried to back off playing for a while and do the ice/ibuprofen thing but it just kept getting worse (working at a computer 10 hours a day didn’t help). I got online and researched the heck out of treatments and exercises for tennis elbow.Eventually I discovered one very promising sounding and cheap tool to cure tennis elbow through a New York Times article called the “Theraband Flexbar.” It sounded too good to be true: researchers from the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC had come up with the tool as an inexpensive and at-home treatment alternative to “in-clinic machine-assisted or injection treatments”– and a study in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery and a subsequent study validated the effectiveness.
I ordered the green (medium resistance) Theraband Flexbar for around $25 and set out to do the “Tyler Twist” tennis elbow exercise shown in the video below (named after the physical therapist and lead researcher Tim Tyler PT) for about 5 minutes a day, 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Another view of the “Tyler Twist” exercise:
My research suggested I’d see big improvement within 2 weeks if I stuck to this simple regimen. I made a pact with myself that I would take a week off from playing and give this a serious shot. 7 days passed and I didn’t feel much change. I was dying to get back on the court so I did. But I kept doing the 5 minutes a day. Somewhere around the 10th day I sensed a big breakthrough — much less elbow pain when performing the exercise and working on my computer. And miraculously, by the 14th day my elbow pain was pretty much gone. I kept up the 5 minutes a day for another week or so as a preventative measure, then put the Flexbar in my tennis bag and used it for a few minutes before I stepped onto the court as part of my warm-up routine. Since then, no recurrences of tennis elbow despite dramatically upping the intensity of my training. Today I keep the Flexbar near the TV and do that exercise once in a while just to keep things strong.