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Tennis elbow results from damage to the extensor tendons (the tendon of the muscles that extend the wrist). This can cause acute elbow pain and tightness, especially when gripping or lifting.
To effectively address tennis elbow not only must you treat the local tendon but also (and perhaps most importantly) correct the underlying cause of tendon damage.
In the case of tennis elbow the tendon damage is largely due to increased strain on the tendon as a result of poor stabilisation somewhere else in the body. Put another way, one area of the body simply isn’t doing its job and forearm muscles are just trying to pick up the slack. Overtime this increased load on the extensor tendon leads to breakdown and the pain of tennis elbow.
One of the most common areas of poor stabilisation in tennis elbow cases is the shoulder. ‘Scap Pumps’ are a simple exercise that helps wake up the stabilisers of the shoulder and neck, reducing strain on the forearm muscles and reducing pain.
How to perform the scap pumps exercise for tennis elbow
- Start the exercise on all fours. Draw your chin in so your head and neck are in line with your middle back (fig 1). Spread your fingers and keep elbows straight.
- Lower your chest towards the floor so you feel your shoulder blades slide together without changing the position of your spine.
- Then push yourself back up feeling your shoulder blades separate.
- Continue to push away until your shoulder blades are separated as far as possible without rounding your mid back or shrugging your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for 2 seconds in this top position before slowly lowering.
- Repeat up to 15 times for 3-5 sets.
- Once this basic movement has been mastered the exercise can be advanced to a plank position, or performed on one arm.
- This exercise works well in conjunction with gentle stretching exercises for the muscles of the forearm.
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- Liebenson. C., Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
‘Scap Pumps Exercise for Tennis Elbow’ was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more infomation about Steffen click here.