Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow infographic

Best treatment for tennis elbow.

One of the best treatments for tennis elbow is a well set up exercise program that looks to stimulate muscle and tendon strengthening. Exercising the muscles involved in tennis elbow have been shown to provide long lasting benefits regarding pain ad function and have also been shown to be better than just waiting for the symptoms to settle. 

Manual therapy, such as massage and dry needling, directed at the elbow, wrist, neck and upper back can also assist at reducing elbow pain and increasing pain-free grip strength. Having a combination of manual therapy and exercise rehabilitation can be a great idea to provide short-term improvements with long-term prevention. 

Corticosteroid injections can provide short term benefits, however after 6 weeks these benefits can wear off and may not show any additional benefit compared to exercise and manual therapy combined. Special consideration of a corticosteroid injection should be had prior to undergoing this type of treatment. Other types of treatment may incorporate braces, or taping, or assisted scratching of the elbow joint. 

Click here to view our elbow self-assessment tool to see if you need to get your elbow assessed. 

Best exercises for tennis elbow

Exercises the muscles through your forearm have shown to provide great benefit in reducing tennis elbow symptoms. These exercises typically involve using light weights and are provided in order to increase the strength of the muscles involved in bending and extending your wrist, as well as rotating the forearm. 

Watch some of these exercises in the video below. 

If your pain is more intense, you can start these exercises at a lower level by holding the weight with the wrist in a static position. As your symptoms improve, you can progress to bending and extending the wrist as you hold the weight. 

You may also benefit from incorporating shoulder specific exercises to your rehabilitation to ensure the whole upper limb has appropriate strength for your requirements. 

Complete rest of the elbow can be counter productive and it is usually better to modify activities that increase your pain. For example make sure you're lifting heavy objects with both hands instead of just one. Self-massage over the forearm muscles can be helpful for reducing pain intensity for short periods.

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is a common elbow condition that effects the elbow, in particular the muscles that attach to the side of the elbow that help you extend the wrist and fingers.

There are several different muscles that attach to the outside area of your elbow, with the main muscle associated with tennis elbow being the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle. 

A commonly used healthcare term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylalgia and the conditions occurs typically when there is an overload to the elbow muscles or the tendon of these muscles. 

How do I know if I have tennis elbow?

There are several commonly experienced symptoms related to tennis elbow that will help you work out if you have the condition.

Individuals will classically report pain located on the outside region of the elbow. This pain may be very localised which corresponds to the location of where the tendon attaches to the bone. You may also experience pain down the forearm where the muscle is located.

The pain is typically aggravated by pressure over the sore areas, gripping and lifting objects and resisted wrist and finger motions. 

What causes tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is regarded as an overuse injury to the forearm extensor muscles. 

Overuse typically occurs when you perform new activities that load up the forearm muscles much more than usual or when you perform the same type of motion repeatedly over longer durations, such as carrying, gripping or typing. 

Although the name may suggest the condition is common in tennis players, the condition predominately occurs in the general population with individuals working in industries requiring a combination of force, repetition and poor posture being at greater risk of experiencing tennis elbow. 

How do I diagnose tennis elbow?

Confirming that you have tennis elbow is generally a simple and easy assessment. Your physiotherapist will be able to assess your elbow to ensure no other factors within the elbow joint are contributing to your symptoms. They will also be able to test the strength of your forearm muscles and assess your aggravating factors to provide a diagnosis of tennis elbow. 

It is also very helpful to make sure your shoulder, neck, and upper back are assessed during your rehabilitation to make sure these areas are not contributing to your elbow symptoms.  

Scans of the elbow are not typically required to confirm a diagnosis of tennis elbow. An ultrasound or MRI can help to rule out other issues that may be contributing to your symptoms and your physiotherapist will discuss with you any findings on the scans that are irrelevant to your symptoms.