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Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow - Why does this happen?

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylopathy) affects the muscles on the outer part of the elbow.  The muscles in the forearm which extend the wrist, attach via a tendon to a bony area on the outer part of the elbow.


Tennis Elbow is a condition where this tendon attachment degenerates or becomes inflamed due to micro-tears in the tissue. This is often due to over use of the wrist extensor muscles involved in gripping activities such as racquet sports, typing or painting.





What are the symptoms?
  • Pain and tenderness around the outside of the elbow. 
  • A ‘dull’ ache after gripping or carrying and after repetitive activities.
  • The ‘dull’ ache develops into a sharp, intense pain which can radiate into the forearm when gripping objects.
  • Pain is relieved after a period of rest.    
  • After a period of rest there is stiffness in the elbow.
Diagnosing a Tennis Elbow

Your GP or Physiotherapist can usually diagnose Tennis Elbow simply by examining your arm and hearing where the pain is and how it started.


X-rays and other tests are not usually necessary.

What is the treatment?

Tennis Elbow  will usually recover with some simple changes to activity and exercise.  By trying to avoid or reduce the activity which causes the pain, the damaged tendon is given time recover and heal. 


To help reduce the symptoms an 'ice pack' can be placed on the painful area for 15 - 20 minutes, twice a day.  Do not place the 'ice pack' directly on the skin.  Wrap the 'ice pack' in a damp towel before placing on the painful area to ensure you do not burn the skin.


During the initial painful stages it is important to manage the pain.  An Elbow Brace or Epiclasp can be worn to help reduce pressure on the tendon as it heals.




Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications  -  These may be prescribed by your GP if your pain is constant. This is a temporary measure to break the pain cycle, but can be continued as required.


Exercise  -  Exercise is useful to help stretch the muscles in the forearm as the injury heals. Once the pain has settled it is important to strengthen the surrounding muscles to help prevent reoccurrence. Improving muscle balance will help to relieve the symptoms.  It is very important not to force movement through the pain.  Click here for a list of exercises suitable for Tennis Elbow.



 Ergonomics  -  If sitting at your desk and using your computer causes pain in your elbow ensure your workstation is set up correctly to avoid strain on the muscles.  If you experience pain when lifting or carrying you should change how you use the arm to avoid extending the wrist.



Physiotherapy -  If exercise alone does not improve symptoms then physiotherapy treatment may be required.  A physiotherapist can use specific treatments including, ultrasound, deep friction, massage, interferential, acupuncture or taping to help relieve pain and aid recovery.  Click here for more information about Physiotherapy.



Injections  -  In some cases your GP or Consultant may recommend an injection. These can be used to reduce inflammation and pain when the symptoms are severe and constant.  This is not a 'cure' and it is important to follow the exercises and modify activities.  A 'Cortisone Injection' can help reduce inflammation in the tendon, whilst a 'PRP Injection' (Platelet Rich Plasma) can help to stimulate healing. 



Surgery  -  This is not common for Tennis Elbow.  In some cases when symptoms are slow to resolve by the treatments above, surgery may be considered.   

Remember an important part of treatment for a Tennis Elbow is your home exercises and modifying activities.