Treating Tennis Elbow

Naomi Bauer

Game, set and sometimes excruciating pain to the side of the elbow is clinically known as “lateral epicondylagia” but is commonly known as “tennis elbow”.

This pain is experienced into the outer side of the elbow and is caused by repetitive strain such as swinging that racket a few too many times or something occasional such as lifting a heavy item.

The diagnosis

When this type of pain arrives at the clinic door, we have to have a look at a number of things to diagnose the condition and the following structures around the area need to be assessed:

  • Forearm extensor tendons
  • Forearm extensor muscle bellies
  • Radio-humeral joint
  • Ligaments of the elbow
  • Nerves from the neck

An X-Ray or Ultrasound is often completed to assist with diagnosis of this pain locally. An X-Ray is used to screen the joints and bones in the area, and ultrasound is used to screen the soft tissues structures around the area.

The treatment

Once we have formulated a diagnosis for the cause of the tennis elbow pain, we can provide various treatments, from my experience as a clinician these physiotherapy treatments work well for tennis elbow:

  • Soft tissue manipulation via massage or dry needling
  • Taping of the elbow or prescription of a brace
  • Joint mobilisation of the elbow
  • Wrist extensor exercises, preferably fancy “eccentric” exercises
  • Wrist extensor stretches
  • Addressing any weakness or issues in the shoulder of the affected side

Medically, this type of pain can be treated with use of anti-inflammatories and ultrasound guided injections of cortisone. It is a good idea to rest from sport or activity that aggravates this condition and get a thorough assessment to determine what treatment is going to get you back on the court.