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A Pickleballer’s Guide to Healing from Tennis Elbow for Good

Tennis elbow might seem relatively benign to those who’ve never suffered from it.

But those who have dealt with tennis elbow understand that it can be one of the more devastating chronic afflictions you can face in the sport of pickleball.

It’s a tricky, nagging injury that can keep you off the courts for months on end.

A lot of players try to push through the pain when they start experiencing tennis/pickleball elbow. But you need a plan.

If you’re not careful, you might end up with serious tendon damage that stops you from being able to shake someone’s hand or hold a coffee cup without pain. You do not want to ignore the problem until it’s too late.

In this post, you’ll learn in rich detail all the ways that you can treat your tennis elbow. With these tips, you’ll be able to manage the injury now and get back out on the court as soon as possible.

Let’s dive in.

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow, officially referred to as “lateral epicondylitis”, is a painful overexertion based injury that occurs when tendons in the elbow that attach to the forearm muscles become damaged or inflamed.

Anyone who engages in strenuous, repetitive activities that involve lifting, gripping, and/or twisting with the forearm muscles are vulnerable to developing the condition.

Is there a difference between tennis elbow & Pickleball elbow?

While they originate from playing different sports, the injury itself is the same. The differences between them are only in the naming. You can use the names interchangeably. Lateral epicondylitis occurs in non-sports players, as well.

How to heal your tennis elbow

Since tennis elbow is caused by tendon damage, the first rule to heal it is to stop exacerbating it. Yes, this means taking a break from playing and giving your elbow time to rest. I know, sometimes slowing down and doing nothing is the hardest thing to do.

Fortunately, there are a number of positive steps you can research to heal your tennis elbow while you’re taking a break from playing pickleball.

Here are the healing strategies outlined in this post:

  1. Optimize playing form
  2. Get supportive equipment
  3. Embrace exercises and strength training
  4. Seek clinician interventions
  5. Rest, rest, rest

1. Fix improper playing form

While some bodies are simply more prone to develop tendon issues, others succumb to conditions like tennis elbow due to poor playing form and mechanics.

Here are the most important aspects of your game to adjust when combating pickleball elbow:

Grip tension

One of the biggest contributors to tennis elbow pain is excessive grip tension. Squeezing tightly on your paddle handle stresses the lateral forearm muscles, which is the muscle group that when strained leads to this condition.

You want to lessen the intensity and pressure of your grip while you play. Here are some strategies to help you do this:

  • Constantly remind yourself to hold your paddle lightly instead of over-squeezing it in death grip. Discover what grip force is tight enough to support your play without overdoing it.
  • Relax your hands between points. You can even switch your paddle into your off hand until the next point
  • Get a larger grip sized paddle or modify your grip with an overgrip or two so you don’t have to clench as hard to get a good grip (more on this later)

One routine I had a friend swear by was between points she’d let go of her paddle with all but her thumb and index finger. She’d dangle it there then slowly grip her paddle with a light touch before the next point. This rhythmic approach practiced regularly helped her ingrain a light grip into an unconscious habit.

Form and swing mechanics

In addition to gripping the paddle too tightly, a lot of tennis elbow is simply due to bad technique.

A big focus for form making sure that you’re not stopping short on your swings. You’re adding unnecessary strain to the muscles around your elbow when you abruptly stop your swings from culminating in a natural follow through motion.

So think about your swinging motion, especially your forehands. Are you slapping the ball with big momentum energy but whipping it back without letting your arm follow through? You of course want tight mechanics at the kitchen line with short swings. I’m more referencing your larger swings and groundstrokes and how your follow through matches with them.

If you’re stopping the stroke and not following through, you’ll likely experience elbow relief when you complete that swing and follow all the way through.

Also take note of how your elbow rests in position throughout your game. Do you keep it in a flexed position? Having your arm gently straightened supports overall tendon health and length. Excessive flexing and contracting will always lead to more issues.

There was a time my elbow started hurting and google research indicated stop extending the arm/reaching so far. So I started hustling closer to the ball and not reach so far and the pain stopped

It might be a good idea to have a coach or advanced player check your form. They can tell you specific things like whether to use your wrist or shoulder more.

2. Embrace supportive equipment

We’re fortunate that there’s a lot of gear out there that can mitigate chronic sports injuries.

This equipment list features a number of braces and tools that you can use to absorb  vibration and give relief to your inflamed elbow and down-stream forearm and hand muscles.

In this list we have:

  • Elbow braces
  • Forearm braces
  • Wrist braces
  • Paddles
  • Overgrips
  • Weighted tape
  • Percussion massage guns

Elbow brace compression sleeves

The Bauerfeind EpiTrain elbow brace.

A good elbow brace can be a first-line defense in protecting and healing your chronic tennis elbow. The compression they provide gives stabilization and relief for inflamed tendons and muscles of the elbow and forearm.

I recommend wearing a brace like this both during and outside of play. The compression really helps, especially with muscles in the evening. When I’ve had elbow issues I’ve personally worn one 24 hours a day during certain stages of healing.

The Bauerfeind brace (pictured above) is my recommended elbow sleeve. They’re a german company that makes quality and reliable sports recovery wear. I’ve used their ankle braces off and on for years and have always been satisfied.

If you’d like to go for a cheaper option, the Incrediwear and Kunto braces won’t disappoint, either.

Forearm braces

Like elbow sleeves, forearm bands use compression to relieve pain. These small braces use a compression gel pad to apply targeted pressure into the forearm muscle group that directly connects to the tendons of the elbow.

These things simply work. They reduce pain immediately and, when used regularly, can greatly diminish a tennis elbow condition.

They’re cheap, too. The one pictured is the Bodyprox brace which is an inexpensive and reliable option that’s been around for awhile. I recommend wearing one during your pickleball sessions and leaving it on until about 45 minutes after.

Wristband elbow shock absorber

Moving down the arm, we have the surprisingly effective Tenex shock absorber made specifically for tennis elbow that goes on your wrist during play.

It absorbs vibrations from impact via a high-density liquid that lives inside of that plastic bead. It looks a little funny, but these things work surprisingly well at stopping vibrations from traveling up your forearm.

This wrist band is great to use in conjunction with forearm/elbow sleeves, or in place of the braces if you don’t like those.

Pickleball paddles + overgrips/weighted tape


There are pickleball paddles that have been specifically engineered to give relief for elbow tendons via vibration reduction technology. They reduce strain and take pressure off of your body. I’ve written an entire post on the best pickleball paddles for tennis elbow.

The ProKennex Black Ace (pictured) is a top-tier paddle that was designed by an ex-tennis pro who had to end his tennis career due to tennis elbow. He’s created paddles like the Black Ace that have features like gel core and vibration-absorbing beads in the handle.rsd

There are also paddles out there that offer terrible support for tennis elbow, which you’ll want to avoid. The popular head-heavy Joola Hyperion comes to mind.

Weighted tape

Adding weight to a paddle can help improve tennis elbow by reducing vibration and providing more power, which is less demanding on you and your arm.

It’s recommended to add lead or tungsten tape to the 8-10 and 2-4 o’clock positions on the paddle.


As mentioned earlier, small handles can lead to a player gripping more tightly, which contributes to the muscle strain that increases tennis elbow symptoms.

By adding an overgrip or two (I like Gamma overgrips) to your paddle handle you can make its diameter larger and easier to grip. I know a number of people who have healed their tennis elbow and swear by adding overgrips until their paddle handle’s diameter measures between 4.4″ and 4.5″.

Percussion massage gun

As an athlete, I’ve found massage guns to be one of the best modern inventions. I wholeheartedly recommend that every pickleball player should own a personal massage gun, regardless of injury status.

When it comes to tennis elbow, a massage gun gives you any-time access to targeted muscle relaxation and relief for your tennis elbow discomfort. No, you can’t directly resolve your tendon pain by massaging it. But you can do a great deal to support your surrounding and related musculature.

Using a massage gun on the muscle groups in your forearm and hand will give you instant relief and help your long-term outlook of healing your pickleball elbow significantly.

I’m a bit of a massage gun nerd and have quite the collection. For smaller muscle groups like those associated with tennis elbow, I recommend a smaller massage gun, like the Bob and Brad Q2 Mini (pictured above). It’s essentially pocketable and packs a big punch.

Pro tip: when you use your massage gun, apply a healing lotion like Dr. Christopher’s Complete Tissue and Bone Ointment. The massage will help it penetrate into the skin.

3. Exercises and strengthening

Active rehabilitation will go a long way in helping you clear your tennis elbow. Stretching exercises for the forearm, hand, and shoulder are particularly helpful.

It’s good to stretch your forearms and massage the muscle areas on top of the arm up and down and in circles (a massage gun can be a great support for this).

The Therabar Flex Bar is a very popular treatment tool which provide resistance training that strengthens the elbow tendon and related muscle groupings. Strengthen your forearm musculature and elbow tendons is one of the best things you can do is to stop the recurrence of pickleball elbow.

Here are some excellent videos on exercises for tennis elbow recovery:





4. Clinical interventions

Usually most, if not all, of your tennis elbow treatment can be researched and administered at home.

But sometimes, it makes sense to go in and get professional help and support for your recovery.

MRI scans

When you’re dealing with severe pain from tennis elbow there’s a possibility that you tore something and might need special care and treatment, possibly including surgical intervention.

You’ll want to get an MRI over an X-ray if you know that you don’t have bone-related issues. An MRI will show tendon damage, an X-ray will not.

I know a handful of players who spent a lot of time attempting to rehab their elbows only to discover that they would require surgery after all.

Thankfully, most surgeries are successful for tennis elbow are successful and the resulting recovery will be well worth it.

Cortisone/steroid shots

Steroid shots are a common option that people embrace for pickleball elbow. Professionals, like orthopedic elbow specialists, will often prescribe cortisone shots in the elbow area.

For some people, the steroid injections ended up being what worked in the end, after little else did.

I personally believe that some of the non-steroidal steps in this article can be enough to help most people, but the cortisone injections do seem to work for a lot of people.

It’s always good not to just rely on these injections, though. Because if underlying issues like improper form and swing mechanics aren’t addressed, you’ll just need more injections, and eventually, they might not work.

Dry needling/acupuncture

I’ve heard and read a lot of good results from acupuncture and dry needling treatments for tennis elbow.

I don’t have first hand experience here, but I have utilized both treatments for other ailments and have found relief.

Visiting a local community acupuncture center might be an ideal cheap method to get you potential relief.

PRP therapy

Another injection in the form of PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) has been show to respond well to tennis elbow.

It’s a similar method to stem cell therapy, but uses your body’s own white blood cell’s to heal the area.

Again, not something I’m intimately familiar with, but I’ve heard promising results.

Massage treatments

Getting treatments from a physical therapist or specialized massage therapist can be an excellent support system for healing your tennis elbow.

Some therapists also utilize muscle scraping, otherwise known as Gua sha, which is a soft tissue therapy that can be a game-changer for your recovery. If you hear of a therapist offering this, check it out.

These specialists will also give a professional opinion to be sure that your problem will be self-manageable and will give some great info on rehab.

5. Rest, rest, rest

I’ve heard countless instances of athletes playing too hard and too soon after recovering from an injury and aggravating it, setting their recovery back months.

Rest is the hardest thing to do, and the most important. I know, we’re all addicted to pickleball. Playing it like crazy is what got us here in the first place.

But play on it before you’re ready, and you’ll just be inviting more injuries in. Sometimes we have to accept that we just can’t keep the pace of recovery that we had when we were younger.

With tennis elbow, you don’t want to play until the pain and weakness are mostly gone, or you’ve at least got some great equipment that’s protecting and providing relief for your injury.

When you do get back into playing, reduce your volume considerably compared to normal and slowly add more play time back in as you’re assured of your continued success with your elbow’s recovery.

In summary

Hopefully this article has been helpful for you and makes your recovery smoother. If you’d like to pick out a paddle to help with your tennis elbow, you can read my post on paddles for tennis elbow here.

What has your tennis elbow experience been like? What tips and tricks have you come across to help your recovery?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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