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Tennis Elbow - Injury, Symptoms & Treatment

What Is Tennis Elbow?


Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition of the outside of the elbow. It is often caused by overuse of the muscles. 

As its name suggests, tennis elbow is common in tennis players. However it is not only sportspeople who get tennis elbow. Any activities that require repetitive and intensive use of the forearm muscles can predispose you to developing this condition. Therefore it is just as common in office workers or tradespeople. It can also be caused by daily activities such as gardening, typing, painting or using scissors.


It commonly occurs in those who are aged between 30 and 50. The dominant arm is most often affected but it can occur in either arm. The muscles in your forearm on the outside of the elbow become inflamed, and in some cases you can get microtears. These are the muscles that move your wrist backwards.


Unfortunately this condition is quite slow to heal, as the tendon has a poor blood supply. Recovery time can take anywhere from a few months to two years. 


What Are The Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow?


Most cases of tennis elbow don't have a specific injury that provokes symptoms. The symptoms develop gradually- starting off mild, and worsening over weeks and months.


  • You will feel pain or a burning sensation on the outer part of your elbow

  • You may feel weaker in your grip strength

  • You may get pain at night

  • You may have pain with everyday activities such as carrying the groceries, cleaning, writing or typing


Tennis Elbow Physiotherapy Treatment


For tennis elbow physiotherapy treatment, the following steps are recommended to be taken in order. At times, not all steps are required, as this is primarily dependant on the pain level experienced:


1. Rest


Once you work out what your aggravating activities are, you will have to take a break or modify them as much as possible to allow the arm to rest. This may mean stopping sport or heavy work activities for a number of weeks.


Anti-inflammatories can be taken to help reduce pain and swelling. 


2. Ice 


Ice can be applied to help numb the pain and reduce swelling. You can also apply a heat pack for 20 mins before bed to help promote blood flow to the area and relax the muscles.


3. Wearing A Brace

Wearing a brace can be really effective in alleviating your pain. The elbow guard wraps around the affected muscles to help reduce the load placed on the tendons where they attach, reducing the pressure and providing the arm with more support. 


4. Visiting A Physiotherapist


In more severe cases, such as those who have significant muscle tears, surgery may be required if your symptoms do not respond to a conservative approach. It is recommended to try conservative methods for at least 6 months before considering surgery. If symptoms still persist and you go ahead with surgery, you will need to undergo a comprehensive physiotherapy rehabilitation program to help you return to your activities as quickly as possible after surgery. 


Preventing Tennis Elbow


In order to reduce the risk of developing tennis elbow, it is important to correct your movement techniques with sport or every day activity.


For those who are tennis players, have your coach analyse your swing technique to ensure your wrist is stable and that you have minimal pressure on the extensor tendons. Warm up each time before you play to help reduce the risk of injury. Lighter racquets with a larger grip size can also help reduce the strain on the tendons. Updating the tennis ball regularly can also help as old or damp balls load the arm with unnecessary force. 


Modify any activities that could be contributing to your pain. This may mean taking more regular breaks when gardening or typing. Speak to your physiotherapist about what modifications you can make.


Regular stretching of the forearm muscles is important to reduce muscle tightness or tension. 


Strengthening of the forearm muscles is vital so that they are able to cope with the load and demands placed on them. Your physiotherapist will recommend the best exercises for you.


How Can Physiotherapy Help With Tennis Elbow?


Physiotherapy treatment aims to relieve your pain through soft tissue massage to loosen up the muscles and promote blood flow to the area. We also use ultrasound, hot or cold packs and TENS for pain relief. You will be prescribed a comprehensive exercise program that will consist of stretches and strength work so that your muscles are better able to cope with the demands placed on them. We will give you valuable advice on how you can modify your aggravating activities to prevent the condition from recurring. If appropriate, we can provide you with a protective guard such as an elbow guard that you can wear during the day for extra support and to take the pressure off the affected area. We will guide you on how often you will need to wear the brace so that it doesn’t cause weakness from long term use. We will also advise you on sport- what you can and can’t do, and will provide you with an alternative program until you are fit to return to your normal exercise or sporting activity.



If you are suffering from tennis elbow or have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us, we would be more than happy to help! Give us a call on 9875 3760 or email us info@wphphysio.com.au.



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You do not need a Doctors' referral in order to make an appointment with a Physiotherapist

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