Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow

I don’t even play tennis – can I have tennis elbow?

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is the common term for ‘lateral epicondylalgia,’ which means pain over the area of the lateral epicondyle. The lateral epicondyle is a bony prominence on the outer (or lateral) side of the elbow and is the origin of the muscles responsible for bending your wrist back (called the wrist extensors).


The pain in tennis elbow arises when the tendons that join the wrist extensor muscles to the lateral epicondyle become damaged due to muscle overload. The tendon structure itself can become abnormal, causing pain.

It is important to get your elbow pain checked out early to prevent further damage to your tendon and to allow you to get back to the activities you enjoy.

Onset and Common Causes of Tennis Elbow:

Tennis elbow doesn’t just occur in tennis players! Up to 40% of people will experience the symptoms of tennis elbow at least once in their lives.

Tennis elbow most commonly occurs following activities that involve loaded and repeated gripping and/or wrist extension including:

• Sports: tennis, squash and badminton
• Occupations and hobbies: carpentry, bricklaying, sewing, knitting and computer use

The onset of pain commonly occurs gradually after completing an activity that you don’t normally do (e.g. spending a weekend using a screwdriver or a hammer). If you are a tennis player, recently changing your racquet or playing with wet, heavy balls (which increases the load) can cause pain to arise.

Tennis elbow pain can also occur suddenly, most commonly after a once-off incident involving the wrist extensor muscles (e.g. lifting something heavy), or performing a tennis shot with high force and poor technique (which excessively loads the wrist extensor muscles).

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow:

Symptoms of tennis elbow include:

• Pain over the lateral epicondyle (outer aspect of your elbow) that could be of gradual or sudden onset
• Pain increases when the area is touched or pushed on
• Pain increases with resisted wrist extension and resisted 2nd or 3rd finger extension (bending backwards)
• Pain increases with gripping something when your elbow is straight and your hand is facing down

Assessment of Tennis Elbow:

You All Care Physiotherapist will ask you a series of questions about the onset and behaviour of your pain, any activities you do and will get a short history of your pain to date. They will then complete a comprehensive assessment that may include:

• Range of movement of your elbow, wrist, neck and upper back
• Ligament tests
• Nerve movement tests
• Grip and forearm muscle strength
• Muscle length
• Posture

Treatment for Tennis Elbow:

Treatment for tennis elbow can include:

• Advice and education on your condition and ways that you can help to manage the load on your tendons through minimizing activity and changing your set up at work or during your hobbies and how to self-manage your condition
• Course of anti-inflammatories
• Ultrasound
• Electrotherapy
• Muscle strengthening program
• Joint mobilisations
• Soft tissue massage
• Dry needling
• Taping

What Can You Do to Help?

Two things that you can do to help are:

1. Stopping aggravating activities:

• This gives your tendon time to rest and heal.
• It is important to make sure that when you re-commence the activity that it is painfree.

2. Isometric (no movement) Wrist Extension:

• Turn the hand on your painful side over so that your palm is facing down.
• Place the other hand on top.
• Attempt to bend the hand on your painful side back up towards you, but gently stop this movement with your other hand so there is no movement. You should feel your muscles working on your painful side but this should not be painful.


To get control of your elbow pain, call All Care Physiotherapy today on 1300 291 133 and get back to the activities you enjoy!

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