Tennis Elbow

By Health Web | March 2, 2023

What does Tennis Elbow mean?

Tennis elbow is a painful condition affecting the outside part of the elbow. This area is called the lateral epicondyle and so the medical term is lateral epicondylitis. Tennis elbow is usually caused by overuse of the forearm. The outer elbow tissues become inflamed. This involves wrist and elbow extensor muscles being overused in repetitive movement and/or sustained postures. Many forearm muscles attach at or around the lateral epicondyle so when they are overused they pull too much on the elbow and make it sore. Patients typically develop this condition in association with activities involving repeated wrist extension against resistance or from activities involving repetitive or forceful gripping of the hand. This includes sporting activities such as tennis and squash, manual work such as gardening, painting, cleaning, sewing and knitting or working at a computer.

What are the symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

Common symptoms of pain, stiffness and inflammation occur at the outer elbow.  Pain can be constant or it just comes and goes with particular wrist and elbow movements. The elbow and forearm pain is often aggravated with grip, lift and twist activities. Even a simple activity of holding a pen and trying to write or turning a door handle can be uncomfortable.

Pain and tenderness is usually felt on the outside of your dominant elbow and into the upper forearm. The pain is often aggravated by wrist movements such as gripping, where the use of inflamed forearm muscles and tendon tissues near the outer elbow hurts. Knocking the outer elbow against furniture may produce sharp, intense pain.

Most cases of tennis elbow settle well with appropriate physiotherapy. This requires careful assessment by the treating physiotherapist to determine which factors have contributed to the development of the condition. The assessment findings determine a treatment plan which will focus on correction of the factors causing the pain. When simple, everyday tasks or sporting activity continues to be painful then elbow condition can be very frustrating.

Physiotherapy Treatment for Tennis Elbow

Physiotherapy treatment for lateral epicondylitis is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and reduce the likelihood of injury recurrence. Physiotherapy treatment may be a selection of the following:

  • Soft tissue massage and myofascial release
  • Electrotherapy
  • Taping
  • Bracing
  • Joint mobilization
  • Dry needling
  • Ice or heat treatment
  • Progressive exercises to improve flexibility and strength
  • Activity modification advice
  • Technique correction
  • Education
  • Anti-inflammatory advice
  • Devising and monitoring an appropriate return to sport or activity plan

How long will my tennis elbow last?

With appropriate management, most minor cases of tennis elbow that have not been present for long can usually recover within a few weeks. In more severe and chronic cases recovery can be lengthy process and may take up to 6 months in those who have had their condition for a long period of time. For women experiencing tennis elbow symptoms, family and work activities can become quite difficult. Early physiotherapy intervention is therefore vital to hasten recovery and enable you to use your arm in everyday activity with comfort.