Tennis Elbow and Physical Therapy


Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition characterized by pain and tenderness on the outer side of the elbow. Despite its name, tennis elbow can affect anyone, not just tennis players. Physical therapy can play a crucial role in alleviating pain and restoring function.

Understanding Tennis Elbow

Causes and Symptoms

Tennis elbow occurs due to overuse and strain on the extensor muscles of the forearm that attach to the lateral epicondyle (the bony bump on the outer side of the elbow). Common causes include:

  1. Repetitive Movements: Activities such as gripping, lifting, typing, and playing racquet sports can strain the extensor tendons.
  2. Poor Technique: Incorrect form during sports or weightlifting can contribute to the development of tennis elbow.
  3. Age and Degeneration: Tendons naturally weaken with age, making them more susceptible to injury.

Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain, tenderness, and weakness in the forearm and wrist. The pain often worsens with activities that involve gripping or lifting.

The Role of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing tennis elbow. Here’s how it can help:

  1. Pain Reduction and Inflammation Control:
    • Education: Physical therapists educate patients about aggravating movements and provide ergonomic modifications for daily tasks.
    • Manual Techniques: Massage and mobilization techniques help reduce pain and inflammation.
    • Modalities: Ultrasound, ice massage, kinesio taping, and electrical stimulation aid in healing.
  2. Strengthening Exercises:
    • Forearm Strengthening: Targeted exercises improve the strength of the forearm muscles.
    • Wrist Extensor Strengthening: Specific exercises enhance the stability of the wrist and elbow joint.
  3. Range of Motion and Flexibility:
    • Stretching: Gentle stretches improve flexibility and prevent stiffness.
    • Joint Mobilization: Manual techniques help restore normal joint movement.
  4. Functional Rehabilitation:
    • Activity-Specific Training: Physical therapists guide patients through functional tasks, teaching proper mechanics to prevent re-injury.
    • Gradual Return to Sports and Activities: Patients learn how to safely resume their regular activities.


Tennis elbow can significantly impact daily life, but with proper management, most cases improve over time. Physical therapy offers a holistic approach by addressing pain, strength, flexibility, and functional abilities. Remember, early intervention leads to better outcomes, allowing you to regain pain-free movement and resume your favorite activities.