Elbow Rehab for a Brachioradialis Strain

Man stretching
A close-up of a man stretching his arms outside. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The brachioradialis, which spans the length of your forearm -- from just above the outside of your elbow to the thumb side of your wrist -- is susceptible to a muscle-strain injury when lengthened too far and too forcefully, just like any other muscle. The rehabilitation process involves a series of interventions to control pain, heal the affected area and restore function. Consult a physical therapist to develop an individualized rehabilitation program.

Initial Care

Rest your affected arm for 48 to 72 hours immediately after suffering the injury to initiate the healing process. Apply ice to the painful area in 20-minute intervals every one to two hours to minimize swelling. Use an elastic compression wrap as well if the swelling is severe. Elevate your injured arm when possible to reduce any internal bleeding. You also can take pain-relieving medications, if desired, at your doctor's direction.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

Perform gentle stretching exercises to restore your range of motion once the pain has subsided; this generally takes about 48 to 72 hours. Start by warming up your forearms for at least five minutes. Bend and straighten your elbow and wrist, and include wrist rotations. Next, extend your arms behind your back with your hands together until you feel light tension through the front of your elbow and upper arm. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds, deepening the stretch slightly with each exhalation as you breathe normally. Swing your affected arm backward and forward with your palm facing inward to stretch the brachioradialis dynamically.

Isometric Exercises

Along with range-of-motion exercises, begin performing isometric exercises after the initial-care phase of the rehabilitation process. These involve contracting the brachioradialis statically for a specific period of time. Stand and hold dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing your hips. Lift the weights about 3 inches, then hold for five seconds. Raise the dumbbells 3 more inches, then hold again. Continue this process until your elbows are almost fully flexed, then lower the weights and relax. Progressively increase the weight of the dumbbells over time.

Strength-Training Exercises

Perform dynamic strength-training exercises as soon as your physical therapist allows. The hammer curl and reverse curl are examples of such exercises that target the brachioradialis. The first exercise involves the same movement pattern as the aforementioned isometric exercise, but you flex and extend your elbows continuously and repeatedly. The reverse curl requires the same movement pattern as well, but you start with your hands in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body. Perform the exercises two to three times per week, starting with one set of 15 repetitions for a week, then two sets of 15 repetitions for a week, and finally three sets of 15 repetitions. Thereafter, increase the amount of resistance and decrease the number of repetitions every two to three weeks.

Considerations

The rehabilitation process for a brachioradialis strain can be lengthy, depending on the severity of the injury, so employing a conservative approach is warranted. Perform the exercises under the supervision of your physical therapist, especially at first, and consult your doctor if you suffer any setbacks.

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