Tennis elbow advice

Hello all,

Anyone, have any advice for a very active jewelry maker in the field
for over 20 years that is experiencing some tennis elbow problems.
Cold Press, Heat, Epsom salts, Exercise, Rest?

any advice would be helpful


Gallery M / TAP Studios
1667 East 40th St. #3B
Cleveland, Ohio 44103
(216) 773-8277

Presumably you don’t actually have “tennis elbow” - that is, from
playing tennis. Some sort of tendonitis, or something. The biggest
culprit is usually the flex shaft. If you raise your arm at the
shoulder, rest your elbow on the benchtop, and your bench is a
standard jeweler’s bench, you will pinch the nerve under your
shoulder. Do it enough and your arm goes dead on you, and pain in the
elbow. This is practical experience, I ain’t no doctor. That’s why
benches have pull out arm rests. Just those couple of inches less
height don’t pinch that nerve. In my experience, heat can be
soothing, but the only real cure is rest, and most importantly, stop
doing whatever it was that caused it…

I suffered from “jeweler’s elbow,” and my neighbor showed me an
exercise which has helped a lot. It’s done with small weights (I use
5 lb dumbbells, but you can use cans or anything which will give you
some resistance.)

Holding the weights, start with your arms straight out to the sides,
palms down, and bring your hands to your chest, then back out
straight. Repeat, each time starting with your hands turned a little
until eventually you are starting with the palms up. I do it sitting
down, but that’s just me.

Hope this helps; it’s pretty much eliminated the problem for me. I
think the different elbow positions are what helps.

Janet Kofoed

My father has tennis elbow (golfing elbow, really), and his doctor
told him to do this exercise for 5 minutes at a time, 3 times a day.
It’s done wonders for him, and best of all, it’s cheap!

Buy a thick rubber band from any office supply store, put the tips
of your fingers and thumb together (like you would if you were making
a hand puppet), and put the rubber band between the knuckle at the
tip of your fingers and the knuckle in the middle. Now open and close
your hand, stretching the rubber band as far as you can, then

That’s it. My dad usually has a few rubber bands around his wrist,
so they’re handy during the day. They’ll eventually break and fly
off, never to be seen again, so be sure to have a spare with you!

Good luck,
Jewelry Geek


Well, I guess I am not in this alone huh? First I will suggest
proper positioning of the arm. Bring it down to your side and not way
up in the air, keep it down to your side, this will reduce the pain.
Second, wrap it with (used to be called Vet wrap, but it is wide
stretchy paper (comes in a variety of bright colors) ace bandage that
sticks to itself. Third, epson salts for soaking, hot tub if you have
it, and anti inflamatory over the counter meds ( advil ). Rest, Rest
and more Rest for this poor arm, because if you want to use it again
that is what it needs. Posture is what it is all about to keep aches
and pains away.

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA

Some advice I was given, sounds a bit strange but worked for me, was
to put a rubber band across your thumb and first finger and open and
close your hand to stretch the band. When you get tired move the band
to your next finger and open and close your hand until that finger is
tired, and so on.

When you can do it for a long time move to a stronger band. The
theory is that you have made the muscles that grip much stronger than
the ones that open your hand and if you rebalance them the pain goes
away. I think I saw this on a blacksmithing site, anyway it worked
for me and is A, drug free 2, free and thirdly, gives you something
to do while you watch the telly.


Find someone that does the “Active Release Techniques”, you can go to to find a provider. I first found out about this on
Orchid…a member here had their carpal tunnel problem reversed (no
surgery!). I had help for a lumbar herniated disc.

Ibuprofen works well for me for similar inflammation due to too much
bench work or gardening. My orthopedic physician in Thailand and my
pharmacist each recommended it for tendonitis. I take 1000 mg at a
time and I have occasionally taken this amount twice a day for
several days in a row. I have not experienced stomach irritation from
using this dosage although that could be different for other folks.

Michael David Sturlin

Hi Todd;

Anyone, have any advice for a very active jewelry maker in the
field for over 20 years that is experiencing some tennis elbow

I get that some times, so does the guy who does a lot of setting for
me. I find it helps if I wear one of those Velcro straps around my
elbow, just below the joint, while I’m working. Helps keep the
muscles and tendons pulled in. You can get them at most any pharmacy.
You’ll get this kind of problem if you are doing a lot of flat work
(bright cutting, etc.).

David L. Huffman

Todd, I have suffered from tennis elbow, but in my case it is caused
by playing tennis not metal work. My cure is to wear and armband
just below the elbow, these are obtainable from sports shops. Don’t
know if this will work in your case but might be worth a try.

Hi Todd, mine was fixed after two years of quite bad problems ( eg
not being able to pick up a full cup, etc.) by taking a herbal
mixture called " Hernidisc" and a suppliment " Chondrosamine". Fixed
within 5 -6 weeks, no more problems 4 yrs later :slight_smile: Ask a Natropath.
good luck, Christine in Sth Aust

have you had a hand injury this could be related to? i went to a
P.T. and they did ultrasonic massage on the area in question and it
helped alot but it was very pricey bio freeze seems to help i think
its over the counter -goo

Seek professional help. Do not wait. See a chiropractor and a
physical therapist.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


i am so sorry you are having this problem, as having had it myself,
i know it is very painful and can be difficult to deal with while
working. (and even doing simple things in everyday life, for that

i went to the acupuncturist for this. after about 8 sessions of
needles poking almost all the way from one side of my elbow to the
other, the tennis elbow has 98% subsided. i also learned different
ways to deal with it by looking at my health holisticly, which was
nice. this was back in the fall of last year, and i have not had any
major problems since. i HIGHLY reccomend acupuncture for overuse

i have also had trigger finger from overuse. trigger finger is like
carpal tunnel, but it is isolated in the finger joints where they
meet the hand. i had this about 8 years ago and got several steroid
injections in each joint. furthermore, i had this congenitally in my
thumb when i was 12 and had surgery to fix it. i now have about 50%
strength in my thumb; the surgery permanently takes away the
strength. the injections reduce the swelling of the tendons and
tissues around the joint. however,this is not a permanent solution,
and i do not think it is the best one.

as i have been doing lots of small wire work and stone setting
recently, i have been waking up with numb fingers and swollen hands
again. my plan is to return to the acupuncture clinic to deal with
this through chinese medicine, as it is kinder to your body in the
long term. since i want to keep making jewelry for a long time, this
is important to me.

my clinic has a school attached, where i can see the student
practitioners for 1/4 of the price ($20 for 1.5 hours). the licensed
acupuncture teachers come in and make sure the students are doing
the job correctly. perhaps they offer this in your area as well.

the best thing to do is to change your working style as well, so you
do not have a recurrence. perhaps change the height of your chair so
you are not putting the same kind of pressure on that joint. or you
do some things standing up. it is very important to stretch at
regular intervals and massage the elbow extremely often, like for
about 1-5 minutes after ANY stress on the elbow. this is easy to do
and feels good. you can also get an elbow brace from the drugstore
to support your elbow while working.

good luck, i hope you feel better soon.


I now swear by this product, which Andrew Weil recommends for any
kind of tendonitis. It took so long to work (give it time) that I
thought my pain had just “gone away.” When I ran out, I didn’t get
more and, a couple of weeks later, I was in pain again. Big surprise,
since I’d forgotten all about that pain (mine is actually not tennis
elbow–my doctor asked if I’d been playing football, since it’s the
same tendon Joe Namath had problems with.)

Zyflamend from

Usual disclaimer.

Lisa Orlando
Albion, CA, US

Hey Todd,

As one just recovering from a bad case of frozen shoulder (similar
inflammation, just in a different area), I can tell you to ease up
on using that elbow. Not to the extent of putting it in a sling, but
don’t overdo it. If like me you don’t want to go the pharmaceutical
route to ease the inflammation, there are several healthier things
that will help like eating pineapple (really! - the enzyme is what
helps) and vitamin C, and oh, my brain is tired but I have the
at home if you’re interested. Soaking it in a warm epsom
salt solution couldn’t hurt. Also, castor oil soaked into flannel
fabric (can be found in a drug store) around your elbow, with plastic
wrap between that and the heating pad (to keep the heating pad clean)
can also help.

I also had frozen shoulder on the other side 6 or 7 years ago (from
overworking it at the bench) and I found then that an energy
technique called Zero Balancing helped pretty quickly, after trying a
zillion other things. This last time ZB didn’t do a lot, but
therapeutic massage did. Go figure. Physical therapy both times did
nothing. Which I think just means that different things work for
different people, and in different levels of injury. I don’t think
there’s one clean easy answer that will always work. And if you’re
more into the medical doctor and drug route, that’s a whole other way
to go, which I know nothing about, but I’m sure others will chime in.

Do you know how it happened? Some repetitive motion you weren’t
aware of originally? After reading ideas from Orchid folks about
reorganizing the bench to make it more “user friendly”, I changed
where I reach for tools - maybe something like that would help you in
the future. Once you get your tennis elbow healed, you don’t want to
have it happen again, if there’s any way you can help it.

Good luck, and be patient with that elbow!


Cindy Crounse
Refined Designs Original Fine Jewelry

A loss of strength in my right hand, and pain in my elbow down to my
pinky. Sound kinda like it? After talking about the subject with an
orthopedic surgeon who was an acquaintance of mine, he said what I
had was a trapped ulnar nerve. He said the surgical solution was
risky and not always successful. I tried a chiropractor who said he
could fix it; it didn’t- maybe even made things worse. Then, while
getting my hair cut by my barber father, he said “Oh yea, happens to
me all the time.” He said neck traction seemed to help more than
anything else. You use a device obtained at a medical supply store,
which is a strap that fits under your chin and around the back of
your skull. This clips on to a bar shaped something like a coat
hanger. He rigged his to a rope and pulley to which he would add
weight. You “hang” from this device, gently stretching your neck and
shoulder area. Obviously, this demands prudence on the part of the
user. You are not so much hanging as you are stretching your back and
neck. I do not know what the device is technically called.

This method is prescribed for various neck/shoulder problems, and
very much helped my trapped “ulnar nerve” issues.

Remember, I’m not a doctor, and this technique should be used with

david lee jeweler
Mason City, Iowa


This is a problem I’ve dealt with for years. My best suggestion is
to go to a good orthopedic doctor and discuss your symptoms. Explain
not only your symptoms, but also seek out advice on ways you can
change your work processes to make them more ergonomic friendly. This
is caused by the repetitive nature of our work, sawing, filing and
constantly moving your arms and fingers. Good luck with your

James S. Cantrell CMBJ

Another natural product to consider is the herbal ointment made from
Arnica. Various preparations can be obtained from pharmacies or
health food shops (at least in Australia). This herb has the
advantage that is actually helps the healing process, as well as
relieving the pain. I have had various joint problems in the past
(shoulder, hip, etc, which have been helped by this preparation. At
the moment I have “Golf” elbow. You have to remember to rub it in
several times a day. I usually keep the tube in a place where I will
see it to remind me to apply it (eg on the kitchen bench top, or
perhaps the studio bench), and it definitely helps when applied
regularly. At the beginning of a problem I usually do 2 applications
at a time, ie, rub in then another lot to rub in again.

Of course you also have to stop the activity (or do it differently)
which is causing the problem in the first place! I have to wear an
elastic bandage on my elbow when playing golf.

Elizabeth Gordon-Mills
Po Box 32
Langhorne Creek
South Australia

This is just one person’s experience… One of my best friends
decided to marry “baby Godzilla” who is a great guy with a size 20
ring finger. While I was hand making his ring it required great
strength to solder and form very heavy half round stock and round it
out on the mandrel. We did a number of fittings because it was summer
and his finger kept changing size, and first he wanted a square ring
then he changed his mind and wanted the ring round. I wanted to be
sure he was happy and comfortable wearing his ring. While holding the
ring mandrel in my left hand and making blows with my right hand a
long time was spent exposing my left elbow to reciprocal type of
impacts. It is that action or injury that often causes tennis elbow
(lateral epicondylitis). Hitting a tennis ball is repeated impact
action so hence the term tennis elbow. After the work was finished
over a period of three months the pain became disabling enough to see
the “Doc”. He referred me to an orthopedic “Doc” that gave me a
steroid injection in the elbow and instant relief was provided. I
purchased a ring mandrel holder that mounts in your work area with
screws. This sturdy item holds the mandrel in a horizontal position
while you form so that it absorbs the impact instead your arm, great
tool I love it. No more problems with my elbow!

Peace and blessing to all,
Cathy Wheless