THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!
As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.
- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)
[updated to include pictures of how to do the exercise]
The annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine is taking place right now in Colorado. Among the research being presented is a new approach to “tennis elbow,” which apparently affects three percent of the population. The study took 21 patients and gave them both the standard conservative treatment (stretching, ultrasound, massage, heat and ice), and then split them into two groups for wrist strengthening exercises:
The eccentric training group performed isolated eccentric wrist extensor strengthening using the rubber bar (Flexbar, Akron OH) while the standard treatment group performed isotonic wrist strengthening exercises.
Apparently the fancy rubber bar worked so well that they halted the trial early to let the controls get the good stuff, which is generally a sign that the researchers are seeing a very strong effect. Given how much of a nuisance tennis elbow can be, this seems like good news. The only problem is that I have no idea what an isolated eccentric wrist exercise with a rubber bar looks like. I’ve asked for some further description or diagrams to help clarify, and I’ll post them here when I get them.
Update: I just received a copy of the research paper, along with some pictures to illustrate the exercises. The paper is “Addition of a Novel Eccentric Wrist Extensor Exercise to Standard Treatment for Chronic Lateral Epicondylitis: A Prospective Randomized Trial,” by Timothy Tyler of Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York, along with his collaborators. The results do appear fairly impressive: pain improved by 81% compared to 22% in controls, tenderness by 70% versus 4%, and strength by 72% versus 11%.
Here’s how they describe the exercise:
The isolated eccentric strengthening exercise was performed using a rubber bar (Thera-Band ® FlexBar, The Hygenic Corporation, Akron OH) which was twisted using wrist flexion of the uninvolved limb and slowly allowed to untwist with eccentric wrist extension by the involved limb (Fig 1). Each eccentric wrist extensor contraction lasted approximately 4 seconds (i.e. slow release). Both upper extremities were reset for the subsequent repetitions. A 30 second rest period was timed between each set of 15 repetitions and 3 sets of 15 repetitions were performed daily. Intensity was increased by giving the patient a thicker rubber bar if the patient reported no longer experiencing discomfort during the exercise.
And here are two pictures: