Tennis Elbow – Overview, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow is a painful condition caused by repetitive actions, such as tennis. Despite its name, this condition is caused by a wide range of activities; common sporting causes include tennis and squash, but the problem can just as easily arise from using a computer or from carpentry.

Tennis Elbow (TE) affects the tendon and muscle associated with gripping or wrist extension, where repetitive actions and/or elbow trauma give rise to inflammation and pain.

diagram of the elbow joint and tendon, highlighting the symptomatic area of Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow arises due to tears and subsequent inflammation of the tendon and tissues around the elbow.

TE is very common, with approximately 1 in 50 people experiencing this condition at some point, and can be a major obstacle to sporting activity.

TE is also known as lateral epicondylitis or lateral elbow tendinopathy.

Do I Have Tennis Elbow?

TE is characterised by an aching type pain on the outside of the elbow, which is aggravated by the use of the affected muscle and tendon. It commonly becomes chronic and can last up to two years if left untreated.

If you regularly carry out repetitive activities that include gripping or wrist extension and are currently suffering from a persistent aching pain in this area, it is certainly possible that you have TE.

TE is relatively easy to diagnose, normally involving a physical examination and history. It can be diagnosed by a Sports Physician or other primary care practitioner, such as your GP. It is rare that TE will require medical imaging, such as an MRI or x-ray, during the diagnosis.

It is important to seek an expert opinion if you experience chronic (continuing) pain in this region, especially if it is limiting your activity.

How To Treat Tennis Elbow

Treatment for TE is varied and dependent on context, but would often include:

  • Rest and Ice – these simple measures are often recommended if there is minimal impact on activities or quality of life.
  • Changing Activities – even a brief respite from the activities that cause this condition can be essential treatment.
  • Physical Therapy – A physio will be able to work with you to promote function and decrease pain. This may be in the form of simple eccentric strengthening or bracing.
  • Nitrate Patches – nitroglycerin plays a significant role in your body’s own tendon healing mechanisms. Increasing the body’s supply of nitroglycerin can improve the speed and effectiveness of the healing process.
  • Steroid Injection – If the above simple measures do not suffice, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection to decrease the inflammation.
  • Shockwave Therapy – This is a non-invasive method of reducing pain, improving function and promoting healing with acoustic waves.
  • Regenerative Medicine – Your doctor may recommend promotion of healing via regenerative techniques. Typically a PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injection is advised, which involves concentrating your body’s own tissue repairing platelets and administering these to the affected area.

Surgical treatment of Tennis Elbow is extremely rare.

How To Prevent Tennis Elbow

Preventing TE is easy. Paying close attention to your activities and making sure you conduct them in a healthy and physically non-stressful way is a good general rule of thumb. Considering ergonomic solutions in your work environment is often a good place to start.

For sporting activities, it is essential that you acquire a proper technique to avoid the development of conditions like TE. You can seek advice from a Sports Physician, physiotherapist or coach to ensure you have a healthy technique during training and your game.

When Can I Return To Sports?

If you are currently undergoing treatment for TE it is often important to take a rest from your game to allow time to heal. This can of course be a frustrating obstacle to training, especially for professional athletes.

It is important to seek an expert opinion, who can recommend the fastest and most effective treatment in your case. Generally, there should be normal function and no pain before you return to your activities.

Seeking Professional Advice

At my practice, I work closely with an expert team of medical and complementary healthcare practitioners, who I trust to care and make a difference for my patients, including:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Osteopaths
  • Gait Specialists
  • Surgeons

If you have any further questions or would like to book in, please do get in touch:

Tel. 07540 123 227


Address. 27 Harley Street, London, W1G 9QP

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