Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylosis, is pain on the outside of the elbow, typically bothered by gripping and lifting movements of the wrist. It is NOT always from playing tennis!

What causes Tennis Elbow? What are common symptoms?

Tennis elbow occurs when the tendon that attaches the forearm muscles to the elbow is overworked resulting in pain. It can occur ‘out of the blue’ or suddenly during an activity.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain to touch the outside part of the elbow
  • Pain to grip items (such as while writing, typing, or turning a doorknob)
  • Pain to lift items, even those that would previously have felt quite light

How can Physiotherapy help my Tennis Elbow?

Physiotherapy can help to treat both the direct causes of your pain, as well as contributing factors to why it developed in the first place. Your Strive Physiotherapist will employ manual therapies such as massage to the muscles of your forearm and joint mobilizations to the bones in the elbow, or modalities such as Shockwave and/or Acupuncture and Dry Needling.

You will be given a tailored exercise program to help strengthen the muscles contributing to your symptoms and get you back to your regular activity. Your Physiotherapist will also look above and below your painful elbow to ensure that factors such as posture and shoulder strength are addressed so that when your pain is gone, it stays that way!

How can Massage Therapy help my Tennis Elbow?

Massage therapy can also be used to treat both the direct and indirect causes of your tennis elbow pain. Your Strive Massage Therapist will work on a broader area of muscles contributing to your symptoms, helping to address postural compensations in the shoulder, neck and midback that are contributing to your pain.

Massage therapists are also skilled in various neuromobilization techniques which may be underlying your elbow pain and are an important component to your recovery. They will communicate with your physiotherapist to ensure both members of your team are working together to help you get back to your normal.

How can Sports Medicine/Physiatry help my Tennis Elbow?

In most cases, the conservative management described above is extremely effective in helping you to overcome the symptoms of your tennis elbow and get back to your regular activities painfree.

However, tennis elbow can be quite the stubborn condition! In some cases you may need to see a sports medicine physician. Your Strive Physiatrist and Sports Medicine Physician will be able to order imaging, such as an ultrasound, to determine if there may be a small tear in your tendon that is slowing down the healing process.

They can also perform various specialized injections such as cortisone or Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), and provide medications both oral and topical.

How long does it take to for me to recover from my Tennis Elbow?

For someone with tennis elbow, it typically takes around 6-8months until they feel that they are ‘back to normal’. In some cases however, tennis elbow recovery can take 1-2 years. It’s a long process, BUT if you commit to your journey, you will have the strategies to not only manage your pain in the short term but self-manage any recurrences of this pain down the road.

What are the best exercises to help with my Tennis Elbow?

To get started with some exercises to help you recover from your tennis elbow, check out the Tennis Elbow Home Exercise Program.  Please keep in mind that these exercises were designed as a place to start to address your symptoms. These exercises should not be performed or continued if they cause or increase your pain in any way. Using these exercises for self-management of your symptoms does not replace the value of being assessed by a Health Professional. If you find you need help, let a Strive Health Professional help you, book your time today! 

What can I do to treat Tennis Elbow at home?

  • Avoid doing the things that aggravate your symptoms. Eg. if you notice that every time you garden your elbow is really sore and it takes you a while to get it to stop bothering you after, try to modify that activity.
  • Take frequent breaks throughout and use the strategies given to you by your rehab team to manage your pain. If this does not work, you may need to break from this activity for a while until you are more on top of your pain.
  • Self-massage to the muscles of your forearm.
  • Tennis Elbow brace In some cases, you can use a tennis elbow counterforce brace in order to continue to perform your regular activities without pain.

NOTE: It is important to continue with your rehab exercises so that you can eventually stop using your brace and don’t become reliant on it long term. Ergonomic set up for work and home .

Written by

Kiah Brubacher-Cressman


Registered Physiotherapist

Kiah has a special interest in dance injury prevention and rehabilitation. Having been a dancer since the age of 5, Kiah knows first hand what dancers endure physically and mentally in order to perform at their best. Kiah works closely with the National Dance School and Canada’s Ballet Jorgen to support their dancers with customized treatment and training programs so they can continue to pursue their passion for dance. She is currently a member of Healthy Dancer Canada, helping to organize their annual conference and volunteers as part of their Dancer Screening Committee. Kiah also volunteers her time to assist in clinical skills labs for Physical Therapy students at the University of Toronto.

Learn more about Kiah

Have a question about your tennis elbow?

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