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  • Writer's pictureDave the physio


Updated: May 5, 2021

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow, (clinically referred to as lateral epicondylalgia), is a localised degenerative tendon condition affecting the muscles attaching to the bony prominence on the outer edge of the elbow. It is the most common injury in the adult elbow, and usually progresses very gradually over a period of time, often from history of repetitive use and overloading of the muscles around the elbow and arm. Occasionally lateral epicondylalgia pain can involve a muscle tear or damage to certain elbow ligaments, however it does not involve the elbow joint itself.



1. Rest and avoid aggravating activities

Lateral epicondylalgia is most often caused by a history of repetitive overload or overuse of the muscles that attach at the elbow. As the name 'Tennis Elbow' suggests, it is very common in tennis players due to repetitive and forceful movements of the wrist - however it is also commonly seen in the general population, particularly among those whose occupations involve repetitive hand movement such as manual trades. If your pain has only recently developed, it is important that you avoid any aggravating activities or positions, to give the area some time to rest until the pain subsides. This can sometimes take a few weeks. If the pain is more of a chronic issue, there are several other treatment techniques you can try - a few of which we will explore below.

2. Self mobilisation

A quick and easy way to relieve lateral epicondylalgia pain is a technique called Mobilisation with Movement (MWM). This technique can provide some good temporary pain relief, however it is important to use these in addition to the exercises prescribed for you, to achieve optimal results in the long term.

An MWM can be performed by holding your

affected arm just below your elbow and applying pressure away from your body whilst keeping your upper arm tucked into your side. Pressure should be applied in a direction that reduces the pain in the elbow. Once this is achieved, you can add movements such as bending, straightening and twisting - ensuring these can be performed pain free. This technique can be used to settle any pain during exercise or activities.

Ask your physiotherapist about learning these techniques so that you can relieve your pain at home!

3. Strengthening exercises

Strengthening the muscles and their tendons around the elbow is extremely important for reducing pain and improving function. Sustained isometric exercises have been shown to be very beneficial in the early stages of lateral epicondylalgia. These can be achieved by using a theraband and holding your arm in certain positions to work the affected muscles. An example of this is sustained elbow flexion, holding your elbow at 90 degrees with a theraband held between your hand and the floor (attached around a chair or your foot). Maintain your arm in this position for up to 1 minute, ensuring no pain is reproduced at the elbow. Start by performing these exercises up to 3 times in a row with 1 minute rest in between. As the pain starts to subside, you can add eccentric theraband exercises such as elbow extension in the same position.

Home based strengthening exercises should be performed with NO PAIN for best results.

4. Stretching exercises

Stretching the muscles that extend the wrist is another good way to relieve pain and improve function. This can be performed simply by stretching out your affected arm with your hand and fingers hanging down towards the ground. With your opposite hand, bend your wrist and pull your fingers towards your body until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your affected elbow. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times.

5. Taping and braces

Another way to temporarily relieve lateral epicondylalgia pain is by taping the area or wearing an elbow brace. This helps to add support and reduce the stress on those elbow muscles causing your pain. Not only can this help to prevent aggravation of the area at rest, but it can also be a good way to manage your pain during exercise and activity.


If you are experiencing symptoms of lateral epicondylalgia or are having trouble managing your elbow pain, book with us today!

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