Physiotherapy for Tennis Elbow – What to Expect!

Are you sidelined by the discomfort of tennis elbow? Whether you’re an athlete, construction worker, or an office warrior, the throbbing pain and limited mobility can be a frustrating setback. But thankfully, physiotherapy offers a path to recovery and renewed strength.

In this guide, our physiotherapists will take you through what tennis elbow is, what to expect from the symptoms, and most importantly, how physio can help. If you are totally new to physiotherapy and want to better understand the practice first, then head over to our Ultimate Guide to Physiotherapy now.

Understanding Your Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a very common tendinopathy condition characterised by pain and tenderness on the outer part of your elbow. Despite its name, tennis elbow isn’t exclusive to tennis players! This condition can affect anyone who regularly moves their arm in repetitive motions, such as painters, construction workers, and even computer users.

What we call tennis elbow is actually a mess of mechanical stressors that wreak havoc on the tendons connecting the muscles in your forearm to the outer elbow. These tendons, specifically the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon, are put under a lot of stress during repeated wrist and arm movements, leading to microscopic tears and inflammation. Ouch!

tennis elbow anatomy diagram Physiotherapy in London

The primary culprit behind this condition is overuse or repetitive strain, where your forearm muscles are excessively stressed without any time for rest and recovery. Activities involving gripping, twisting, or lifting can increase the strain on these tendons, gradually weakening them over time.

Additionally, poor technique or accidentally misusing equipment can increase your chances of developing tennis elbow. Incorrect form during sports like tennis or improper ergonomics while performing manual tasks (even if it’s just cleaning the kitchen) can amplify the strain on your tendons, increasing the likelihood of injury.

That’s why rest and recovery is a huge part of the physio treatment plan for tennis elbow – more on this below.

Symptoms

Tennis elbow doesn’t discriminate; it can affect people across various age groups and professions. However, at One Body we commonly see it affect adults aged between 30 and 50 who engage in repetitive arm movements, either for their work or pastime. Job roles that require gripping, twisting, or lifting, such as painters, plumbers, chefs, and assembly line workers, are particularly susceptible. Additionally, we see a lot of pro athletes who participate in racquet sports, golf, or weightlifting who also experience tennis elbow.

Tennis elbow comes on gradually, so you may initially brush off some of the symptoms. Tennis elbow usually presents with:

  • Pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow.
  • Difficulty gripping objects or performing simple tasks.
  • Weakness in the affected arm.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion in the elbow.
  • Pain and stiffness in the morning or after a period of rest.

If you’re unsure whether you have tennis elbow or another condition (like arthritis or another tendonitis), book an appointment at One Body – our highly experienced physiotherapists are licensed and registered to diagnose!

How Physiotherapy Can Help

Physiotherapy for tennis elbow treatments always begins with plenty of rest and over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with any pain. However, to truly get to the root cause and promote healing, physiotherapy plays a super important role. Physiotherapists specialise in using targeted exercises to help you rebuild strength and restore a full range of motion in your arm. We’ll also help you understand how best to move your arm correctly to avoid future injury and reduce repetitive strain.

All in all, it’s a quick process. In most cases, a combination of rest and physiotherapy can effectively heal your tennis elbow within two to four weeks. However, if your symptoms persist, your healthcare provider may also recommend steroid injections and other invasive procedures to reduce inflammation and provide additional relief. 

But before we get to that point, there are some very simple and effective ways physio can help you heal.

Physiotherapy Treatments for Tennis Elbow

As physiotherapists, we use a range of modalities to help our patients. Deep tissue massage hits those deep knots just right, strength and coordination training is perfect for neurophysio, and acupuncture is surprisingly good for chronic pain and migraines.

But for tennis elbow, our main modalities are focused on reducing pain, improving strength, and restoring flexibility. We start with education, teaching you how to:

  • Use proper technique: understanding your body mechanics and the right technique during activities that involve repetitive arm movements can significantly reduce the strain on your tendons.
  • Remember to warm up: you need to prepare the muscles and tendons for activity and prevent overuse injuries like tennis elbow – even if the activity is just working at your desk.
  • Check your equipment: from tennis rackets to paintbrushes, we can help you choose more ergonomic tools to reduce stress on your elbow.
  • Make lifestyle changes: this may include stress management techniques, talking to your boss about more regular breaks, and even weight management to reduce strain.

But the real heart of physiotherapy treatments for tennis elbow is exercise.

Physio Exercises

After your first session with a physiotherapist, where they’ll provide an assessment and diagnosis, we move onto exercises. Part of our role in your recovery is prescribing specific exercises to strengthen the muscles around your elbow and improve flexibility.

This is incredibly important as it does more than just encourage your elbow to heal – it can actually help prevent future episodes of tennis elbow. 

The exercises we will guide you through usually target the forearm, wrist, and shoulder muscles along with the elbow to enhance overall arm stability and resilience. We teach you these exercises at our clinic so you can do them independently at home – your regular sessions with your physio will monitor the progress.

Over time, we will guide you through gradually increasing the intensity, duration, and frequency of the exercises, to build strength while avoiding sudden spikes in tendon stress that can lead to injury.

Here are three exercises that we often use for our patients with tennis elbow:

Forearm pronation and supination

This exercise involves holding a light weight, such as a dumbbell or even just a can of tomatoes from the kitchen. It’s simple to do: with your elbow bent at 90 degrees, rotate your forearm to move your palm from facing down (pronation) to facing up (supination). This helps strengthen the muscles and tendons in the forearm, contributing to improved stability and function of the elbow joint.

Wrist flexor stretch

This stretch is super easy to perform – you don’t even need any equipment. To perform this stretch, extend your arm in front of you with your palm facing up. Use your other hand to gently bend your wrist backward, until you feel a stretch in the forearm muscles. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat several times throughout the day (or as your physiotherapist recommends) to help reduce tension and improve flexibility in the wrist and forearm.

Eccentric wrist extension exercise

This exercise is a classic. Start by sitting comfortably in a chair and rest your forearm on a table, palm down. Hold a light weight, such as a dumbbell or another can from the kitchen, in your hand with your wrist in a neutral position. Slowly lift the weight by extending your wrist upward, moving against gravity. Once your wrist is fully extended, slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.

These three exercises are all about slow control, not pushing through exercises as fast as you can. You need to control the descent of the weight or stretch, holding it, and then repeating. Your physiotherapist will let you know how many reps and sets are best for your strength levels and severity of tennis elbow. The aim is to gradually increase the weight or number of reps to strengthen the arm and support the tendons to help your tennis elbow heal.

physiotherapist focusing on the wrist as part of tennis elbow treatment Physiotherapy in London

Rest

We’ve already mentioned stress as a key component of treating tennis elbow, but it’s worth repeating.

The key to starting down the road to recovery is to rest. This means reducing the load (no more weight lifting) and stopping any repetitive motions. If you decide to keep on using your arm, ignoring the pain and stiffness, you will worsen your symptoms.

As physiotherapists, we will teach you how to rest properly between sessions. It’s important that you follow this advice or the exercises you are doing will be ineffective. We can also give you advice on icing, taping or using braces to help reduce your pain and provide support at home.

Physiotherapy Tennis Elbow Treatment at One Body

In summary, physiotherapy should be the cornerstone of your journey toward overcoming tennis elbow. By combining rest with targeted exercises and expert guidance from a physiotherapist, you can expedite your recovery and prevent future flare-ups. With One Body, accessing top-tier physiotherapy care is super easy, bypassing the lengthy NHS waiting lists too. Our team offers prompt assessments, accurate diagnoses, and tailored treatment plans so you can have total peace of mind throughout your rehabilitation journey.

Sounds good? Let’s get started.

Conveniently located across London, One Body’s state-of-the-art clinics have helped thousands in recovering from tendon and overuse injuries. Plus, you have the option to use your private health insurance to cover session costs. 

Don’t let tennis elbow limit your active lifestyle or career any longer – take the first step toward relief and book your London physiotherapy session with One Body today.

FAQs

Will physiotherapy help tennis elbow?

Absolutely. Physiotherapy is ideal for managing and rehabilitating your tennis elbow. Through targeted exercises, education and manual therapy, our physiotherapists can alleviate your pain, improve the range of motion in your arm, and most importantly, promote healing.

Which therapy is best for tennis elbow?

While various therapies can help, physiotherapy is often the best approach for tennis elbow. Physiotherapists specialise in teaching you the right exercises and techniques to address the root cause of the condition and promote long-term recovery – we aren’t just about quick fixes!

What is the best exercise for tennis elbow?

Several exercises can help you with the symptoms of tennis elbow, but one of the most effective is the eccentric wrist extension exercise. This involves slowly lowering a weight (such as a dumbbell) with the wrist extended, which helps strengthen the muscles and tendons involved in tennis elbow while minimising strain.

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Kurt Johnson
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