Tennis elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis is an inflammatory condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow that can cause:

  • Pain on the outside of your upper forearm, just below the bend of your elbow.
  • Pain when lifting or bending your arm.
  • Pain when gripping small objects, such as a pen.
  • Pain when twisting your forearm, such as turning a door handle or opening a jar.
  • Difficulty straightening your elbow.

What causes tennis elbow?

The elbow joint is surrounded by muscles that move your elbow, wrist and fingers. The tendons in your elbow join the bones and muscles together, and control the muscles of your forearm.

Tennis elbow is usually caused by overusing the muscles attached to your elbow and used to straighten your wrist. If the muscles and tendons are strained, tiny tears and inflammation can develop near the bony lump (the lateral epicondyle) on the outside of your elbow.

As the name suggests, tennis elbow is sometimes caused by playing tennis. However, it is often caused by other activities that place repeated stress on the elbow joint, such as decorating or using a computer mouse.

Who is affected by tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is a common musculoskeletal condition. It’s estimated that as many as one in three people have tennis elbow at any given time.

Each year in the UK, about five in every 1,000 people go to see their GP about tennis elbow. The condition usually affects adults and is more common in people who are 40-60 years of age. Men and women are equally affected.

Treating tennis elbow

There are many treatments that can be used to improve your symptoms and speed up your recovery from tennis elbow.

It’s important that you rest your injured arm and stop doing the activity that’s causing the problem.
Holding a cold compress, such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, against your elbow for a few minutes several times a day can help ease the pain.

Taking painkillers, such as paracetamol, may help reduce mild pain caused by tennis elbow. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can also be used to help reduce inflammation.
Surgery may be used as a last resort to remove the damaged part of the tendon.

Most cases of tennis elbow last between six months and two years. However, in about nine out of 10 cases, a full recovery is made within a year.

Physiotherapy for Tennis Elbow

Physiotherapy can really help in persistent cases. Massaging and manipulating the affected area can help relieve the pain and stiffness, and improve the range of movement in your arm. By correcting the position of the joint, the tendon can work more effectively and therefore become less painful.

Shockwave Therapy has been found to be highly effective if delivered by a qualified physiotherapist. Although a relatively new treatment, it can produce excellent results and really reduce the healing time of this condition. Only a few practises across the UK have this treatment, but PhysioDirect have one in their Nottingham and Sheffield clinics.