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Overcoming Tennis Elbow: Effective Physiotherapy Approaches



Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition characterized by pain and inflammation around the elbow due to overuse or repetitive strain. Understanding the triggers, treatment options, and effective remedies for tennis elbow can aid in managing the condition and promoting recovery. This blog post will delve into these aspects and explain how physiotherapy can play a pivotal role in the treatment of tennis elbow.


What Triggers Tennis Elbow?


Triggers for tennis elbow include activities that involve repetitive wrist and arm motion. Besides tennis and other racket sports, activities such as gardening, typing, and using tools that involve repetitive wrist movements can all strain the elbow. 


These activities place continuous stress on the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle, leading to small tears and inflammation. Other common causes of tennis elbow include:


  • Overuse Injuries: Overuse injuries occur when the muscles and tendons of the forearm are strained due to excessive or repetitive use. Over time, the repeated stress can cause microtears in the tendon, leading to pain and inflammation. These types of injuries are common in athletes who play sports that require repetitive arm movements.

  • Certain Occupations: Certain occupations that require repetitive wrist and arm movements are at higher risk for tennis elbow. This includes professions such as carpenters, plumbers, painters, and butchers, as well as office workers who spend long hours typing or using a mouse. These repetitive motions can lead to the overuse of the forearm muscles, resulting in strain and inflammation of the tendons. 

  • Poor Ergonomics: Poor ergonomics, especially in the workplace, can significantly contribute to the development of tennis elbow. Improper workstation setup, such as a poorly positioned keyboard or mouse, can lead to repetitive strain on the wrist and forearm muscles. 

  • Previous Injuries: Previous injuries to the elbow, wrist, or forearm can increase the likelihood of developing tennis elbow. Scar tissue from past injuries can make tendons more susceptible to strain and inflammation. 


Can Tennis Elbow Hurt Your Wrist?


Yes, tennis elbow can hurt your wrist. This condition can cause pain that radiates down the elbow into the forearm and wrist. The pain can even be exacerbated by wrist extension, which strains the tendons and muscles of the forearm and wrist.


Treating Tennis Elbow With Physiotherapy


Physiotherapy is a highly effective treatment option for tennis elbow, addressing both the symptoms and underlying causes of the condition. Physiotherapists use a variety of techniques to reduce pain, promote healing, and restore function to the affected arm. 


  • Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques help reduce muscle tension and improve circulation, which can alleviate pain and promote healing. 

  • Joint Mobilizations: Gentle mobilizations of the elbow and wrist joints can enhance joint movement and alleviate stiffness. These techniques help restore proper mechanics and function to the elbow joint.

  • Cold Therapy (Cryotherapy): Cold therapy involves the application of cold temperatures to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the affected area. The use of cold therapy machines amplifies the benefits by providing targeted and controlled cooling to the affected area. 

  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Specific stretches and exercises targeting the forearm muscles and tendons help improve flexibility and enhance strength. These exercises can reduce muscle tightness and prevent further strain on the tendons.

  • Ergonomic Adjustments and Activity Modification: Advice on modifying workstations, tool use, and daily activities to reduce strain on the elbow. This may include adjusting chair and desk heights, using ergonomic keyboards and mice, and employing proper lifting techniques.


Massage Therapy for Tennis Elbow: What to Know


Massage therapy is a valuable component in the treatment of tennis elbow, offering numerous benefits that aid in pain relief and recovery. 


  • Reducing Muscle Tension: Massage techniques help relax the muscles and tendons around the elbow, forearm, and wrist, alleviating tension and reducing the strain on inflamed tendons.

  • Improving Blood Circulation: Enhanced blood flow to the affected area promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients necessary for healing, while also helping to remove metabolic waste products that contribute to inflammation and pain.

  • Breaking Down Scar Tissue: Massage can help break down scar tissue around the injured tendon, improving flexibility and restoring normal movement patterns, which reduces pain and stiffness.


By incorporating massage therapy into the treatment plan for tennis elbow, individuals can experience significant pain relief, improved flexibility, and faster recovery. 


Healing Timeline for Tennis Elbow With Physiotherapy


The duration of physiotherapy depends on the severity of the condition, the individual’s response to treatment and other factors. Typically, an effective physiotherapy program may last anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. 


Some individuals may require shorter or longer periods depending on the injury itself. It is essential to work closely with your physiotherapist so that they can assess your condition and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.


Exercises and Activities to Avoid With Tennis Elbow


Exercises and activities that exacerbate tennis elbow symptoms should be avoided until you have recovered the necessary strength and mobility. These include:


  • Gripping Exercises: Activities that involve a strong grip, such as squeezing a stress ball, using hand grips, or rock climbing, can place excessive strain on the forearm muscles and tendons, worsening the symptoms.

  • Wrist Extension Exercises: Exercises that involve extending the wrist against resistance, such as lifting weights with the palm facing down, can aggravate the tendons affected by tennis elbow. These should be avoided until the tendon is sufficiently healed.

  • High-Impact Activities: Activities that involve jarring or high-impact movements to the elbow and forearms, such as playing contact sports, can increase inflammation and pain in the elbow and forearm. These movements can exacerbate symptoms by placing additional stress on the already inflamed tendons.

  • Heavy Weight Lifting: Lifting heavy weights can exacerbate tennis elbow symptoms. Avoid exercises like deadlifts, bench presses, or curls until you have regained adequate strength and flexibility.

  • Excessive Typing and Mouse Use: Prolonged use of a keyboard or mouse can strain the forearm muscles and tendons, leading to increased pain and discomfort. Ensure your workstation is ergonomically optimized and take frequent breaks to stretch and rest your hands and forearms.

  • Repetitive Hand Movements: Activities that require repetitive hand movements, such as knitting, playing musical instruments (e.g., piano or guitar), or certain DIY tasks, can worsen tennis elbow symptoms. It’s important to take regular breaks and use proper techniques to minimize strain.


Effective Natural Remedies for Tennis Elbow


Managing tennis elbow naturally can be highly effective, especially when combined with proper physiotherapy and lifestyle adjustments. Here are some detailed natural remedies to help alleviate the symptoms and promote healing:


  • Rest from Activities that Make the Pain Worse: Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain, such as repetitive wrist and arm motions, heavy lifting, and gripping tasks. Resting gives the tendons time to heal and reduces the risk of further injury.

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation): Apply ice packs to the elbow for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation and numb the pain. Use an elbow strap or brace to support the common extensor tendon and reduce swelling during activities. Keep the affected arm elevated to minimize swelling.

  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Gentle stretches and light resistance exercises can strengthen the forearm muscles and improve flexibility, aiding in recovery.

  • Natural Anti-Inflammatory Medicines: Herbal supplements like turmeric and ginger, topical applications of arnica gel, and a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help manage pain and swelling.


Always consult with a healthcare professional or physiotherapist before starting any new treatment.


Enhance Elbow Mobility, Enhance Your Life

Tennis elbow can be a debilitating condition, but with the right approach, it is manageable. Physiotherapy offers effective treatment options that address the root causes of tennis elbow, promote healing, and improve overall function. 


If you are struggling with tennis elbow and seeking effective treatment, consider Harbourview Therapy in Winnipeg. Contact us today to schedule your appointment. Our team of experienced physiotherapists is dedicated to helping you achieve optimal elbow health and regain your mobility. 


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