Tennis elbow is a painful condition affecting the outer aspect of the upper forearm/elbow, and is often exacerbated by gripping/squeezing or performing repetitive wrist movements. Physiotherapy can help by advising ways to manage painful activity and guiding you on suitable exercises.
What is it?
Tennis elbow is a condition causing pain over the outside of the elbow, often exacerbated with gripping/squeezing and repetitive wrist movements. The pain may be due to a number of different issues which could include microscopic tears, inflammation and weakness in the muscle or tendon which extends your wrist where it attaches onto the elbow joint. It is also known as lateral epicondylitis. In most cases, symptoms get better within a year, however physiotherapy can help with managing and treating the condition.
Who does it affect?
It most commonly affects people aged between 30-50 and is more common in females than males. Smokers and those who are overweight are also more at risk. It can come on by itself, but it is usually associated with a change in the amount of activity you are doing with your arm, or can be due to a trauma to the area, such as bumping into a doorway.
Tennis elbow rehabilitation
Tennis elbow can be very painful and make daily activities difficult. Fortunately, it does not routinely require X-rays or scans, and will get better over a few months with activity modification, lifestyle changes and exercises.
Your physiotherapist may give you advice regarding possible adaptations to make in your day to day activities, work and lifestyle. When performing lifting tasks, it is often more comfortable to do this with your palms up rather than down. If you are affected at work by your elbow problem, or off work due to your elbow problem you may also be referred for an assessment by an occupational therapist in Group Rehabilitation (opens in new window) >
Your physiotherapist will also give you some exercises to do regularly at home to help gradually build up strength and movement in your elbow and wrist in ways that are important to you. It is vital that you do these exercises regularly and frequently over the course of several weeks or months, as it can take some time for your elbow to improve. It is normal for these exercises to provoke your elbow pain and it is safe to continue with these exercises. However, if you are finding the pain is not an acceptable level to you or concerned at all, then please discuss this with your physiotherapist.
You may find taking pain relief, or using an anti-inflammatory cream/gel applied directly to the painful area beneficial. You may wish to speak to your GP or a pharmacist if you are unsure what to try, as pain relief may affect any other conditions you have or interact with other medications you are taking.
See below for some exercises for Tennis Elbow. Aim to start off with a manageable number of repetitions, 2 or 3 times per day and increase the difficulty as time goes on. If you find that your pain is getting worse, try reducing the exercises until things settle down a little, then build back up again gradually.