No Arm Wrestling Please

By Laura Gordon

The following is a scenario for you to put yourself into and work through with me:
You have just opened up your own massage therapy business and are building your clientele. One day a client comes in with a sore elbow. The client tells you his profession is carpentry. Examine his arm visually, and note that his dominate arm is inflamed on the lateral side of the elbow joint and is very warm, tender and painful to a light touch. He tells you it began several months ago and has progressed into the current painful condition. He also tells you he is losing strength in his grip which is particularly distressing to him as he has to handle power saws, drills, hammers etc. in his line of work.
Though you cannot diagnose, you are aware these are all the symptoms of Lateral Epicondylitis also known as Tennis Elbow. That means there are tears in the tendons on the lateral side of the arm. The most common is the tendon of the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis. You would muscle test not to diagnose but to confirm the location of the distress and talk with the client about his/her options.
If this is a condition that has persisted a considerable length of time, it is a good idea to have the client get an accurate diagnosis from an M.D. or D.O. to rule out arthritis or other disease related possible causes.
Do you need to muscle test for Tennis Elbow even after a doctor’s diagnosis?
Muscle TestYes, it’s a good idea to pin point where your work would best benefit the client.
To muscle test you would have the client rest their arm on a flat surface palm down, have them extend their hand at the wrist as you resist the move with the palm of your hand over the back of their hand.
TechniqueIf the client experiences pain at the wrist you would know to work the wrist area with stretches and cross fiber. If the client experiences pain at the elbow you would know to work the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. 1) Find the spot shown on the left. 2) Press into the area, to the depth that your client can tolerate. 3) Next cross fiber friction the area for at least 30 seconds. 4) Finish with a gentle stretch that lasts for 30 secs.
AdditionallyYou can stretch the tendons by supinating and pronating the forearm. In each position cross fiber the tendons and muscles of the forearm starting in the area of most pain and working distally toward the wrist or proximal toward the elbow.
Homework:   Homework is an important feature of the work and the two images show the type of work the client can do on their own. It is recommended the client does each position for a set of 10 for a count of 10.
Encourage your client to come back at least twice a week until significant healing has occurred. The treatment as described above will only take 15 to 20 minutes.
Challenge:   Try this technique on a willing victim. Get their impression on how loose this made their already health arm feel.

31 thoughts on “No Arm Wrestling Please”

  1. Very nice, this is something I deal with on a daily basis. Lil bit challenging to do this on yourself but it can be done and does help.

  2. My daughter started beauty college so I used her. She said her arms were a little tight. While doing the treatment she reported she felt the tension releaseing and by the end of the treatment she was ready to go back for another week. She also requested this as part of her regular massage, she said thank you very much.

  3. I performed this on my husband, he does housekeeping and floor maintenance work, so he is swinging a mop and broom a lot. I have had him doing these exercises along with me since friday, after performing the stretches. His arm was sore from the cross-fiber friction, but after doing all of the exersizes he felt better, but still a little sore. today he did it before going to work and said he felt really good, he didn’t even know that he was having problems there.

  4. I tried this on my sister who has tennis elbow and the relief it gave her was awesome. I gave a a tennis ball also, so she can do the homework I gave her to do. All of your tips a wonderful, keep them coming.

  5. I tried this technique on my husbands left arm, his dominate arm, for two days. He has little to no problems with his arm but he has told me this morning that his arm is alot more moveable and less resistent to strain.

  6. I actually have a friend that has this problem. He is in construction and I am sure he will let me give him homework. I know this will help tremendously!

  7. I used this on my boss and his wife. She is a make up artist and he is a stylist. They loved it and said it made a huge difference to them. They don’t do the homework, though they just wait till I come in then make me do it.

    1. 🙂 You’re right, Angel. Most clients won’t do the homework we give them. They’ll look to us to “do it” for them. Think of it as job security!

  8. I noticed my left arm is starting to hurt laterally near elbow. I started doing this method on myself after Ross had a lab on it. It has really helped.

  9. I tried this on myself and it really loosened up my arm. I am going to see about trying this on some of my co-workers

  10. I really like the exercises my right elbow tends to give me trouble a lot do to being a hairdresser and thats the hand I use my shears with, I love that sharon is so persistent with posture and technique bc they def. were not at my cosmo school and old habits die hard. Thank god for massage though the exercises have seemed to really help at night when i sleep. And I’m going to continue them.

  11. I tried this on my husband. He has been substituting a tennis class since the beginning of August. His forearms were very tight and tender. After we did this on him he said he could tell a noticeable difference.

  12. I demonstrated this technique for a friend who is a painter and asked him to continue this excercise at least at the beginning and end of the day. He has noticed a difference just in a short time. Thanks for the tips, it’s nice to be able to pass them on and help others.

  13. O.K. where were you a few years? I over extended my elbow and lived with the pain. At that time I knew nothing about massage therapy. However I did stretches,only because it made it feel better.It goes to show you commonsense can over ride(oh! my goodness what do I do?)Thank you for the lessen.

  14. So good to read that you all are having successful experiences with this treatment. The more techniques we have to draw from in our work the better we serve our clients and, in turn, the more business we get!

  15. Just being able to get a visual on what this helps with in my head is wonderful. Considering I myself am a hairstylist and the girls I have gone to school with all complain about the tension we recieve in our arm from so much hair cutting, color, and all of the above this sounds like a great way to release some of the tension built up including the homework just stretching those muscles help release them. I will be sharing this with the girls in Texas to let them know some of this so to not be going home for a visit just to “help” them.

  16. I work for a chiropractor, who has been complaining about his elbow this last week. I was reading this early Monday morning in the office and he read it with me. He did the exercises and this morning when he came into the office he said it really helped and hes doing it 3 times a day.

  17. I tried this on my husband, he doens’t have any problems with his but after I did this a couple days he said he could really tell a difference in how loose they feel now.

  18. I don’t really know of anyone with elbow problems but I will keep this tip form my client’s that do come in with elbow problems. I will try these tips out on myself so that my clients won’t think that I have no clue what I’m talking about.

  19. Oh my goodness someone stole my blog! Here we go again. A few years ago I over-extended my elbow. This was before any knowledge of massage therapy. Needless to say I started doing some stretches. Of course I didn’t know what I was doing, but guess what after some time the pain was gone!

  20. This is a wonderful technique to have in the old arsenal. Such a simple thing can help out a lot. I intend to show this to my wife so that she can do this on me once or twice a week.

  21. I don’t know anyone with elbow issues, but i try every one of these exercises. I cant really feel a big difference, but i can a little.

  22. Great information. I don’t have this problem but my dad has problems. I can’t wait to try it on him. Thanks for the techniques.

  23. I did this to my aunt who is very athletic, at first she couldn’t feel a difference I was a little discouraged but she text me today (2 days) later and says she can feel it today and said she would continue doing the stretches.

  24. I practiced this technique on my husband after he packed and moved our “old house” to our new house. I gave him homework which he has promised to do…under my eagle eye watch. He said it did help relieve some of the tension/strain feeling he was experiencing. Thanks for the advice.

  25. What a great therapy. I tried this on a freind at the tanning salon and she noticed relief immediatly. I will continue to work on this for her. Thank you for such wonderful information.

  26. I liked doing this blog. I tried this on my sister and she noticed the difference.This is one I will remember to use on my clients.