Managing Tennis Elbow with Physiotherapy: Recovery Processes and Benefits

On May 25, 2024

Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow, typically due to overuse of the forearm muscles. Physiotherapy has proven to be an effective treatment for alleviating symptoms and promoting recovery. This blog post will explore the causes of this condition, how it is assessed, and the best physiotherapy treatments for managing tennis elbow.

Understanding Tennis Elbow: Causes and Symptoms

Tennis elbow results primarily from repetitive motions that strain the tendons in the forearm. Understanding these causes can help in effectively managing and preventing the condition:

  • Repetitive Strain: Common in athletes, particularly tennis players, or in occupations that require repetitive arm and wrist work.
  • Activities that Can Lead to Tennis Elbow: These include playing racquet sports, painting, carpentry, and typing, among others.
  • Symptoms: The main symptom is pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, which might extend into the forearm and wrist.

Assessing Tennis Elbow

Assessing tennis elbow involves a combination of physical examinations and medical history. The physical examination will involve a variety of tests and evaluations. Your physiotherapist will test the pain in your elbow by asking you to flex your arm, wrist, and elbow in various positions. There will also be an in-depth discussion of your activity levels and any history of repetitive strain or recent injuries. Both of these can help pinpoint the root cause of the tennis elbow. In some cases, further tests might be recommended if the evaluation is unclear or to rule out other conditions.

How Physiotherapists Treat Tennis Elbow

Physiotherapy is highly effective in treating tennis elbow, focusing on reducing pain, restoring function, and preventing recurrence:

  • Pain management techniques are a cornerstone of physiotherapy. These may include the use of ice packs, heat applications, and other modalities to reduce inflammation.
  • Exercise therapy also plays a pivotal role. Specific exercises aimed at stretching and strengthening the forearm muscles can help relieve symptoms and prevent future issues.
  • Manual therapy techniques like massage and mobilization can improve flexibility and blood circulation to the affected areas.

The Best Therapy for Tennis Elbow

While several therapies can be beneficial for treating tennis elbow, combining them often yields the best results:

  • Exercise Programs: Tailored exercises that focus on gradually increasing the strength and flexibility of the forearm muscles.
  • Acupuncture: This method stimulates specific points on the body to help relieve pain and improve circulation, which can be particularly effective in treating inflammation associated with tennis elbow.
  • Shockwave Therapy: A newer approach that is effective in breaking down scar tissue and promoting healing in the tendons.

These therapies, when combined, offer a holistic approach to treating tennis elbow, addressing both the symptoms and the underlying causes.

Treatment Timeline for Tennis Elbow with Physiotherapy

The healing time for tennis elbow can vary significantly depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s response to treatment. For less severe cases, recovery can be as quick as 4 to 6 weeks with consistent physiotherapy. More chronic or severe instances may require 6 months to a year of regular treatment and follow-up. 

The duration of therapy also depends on factors such as the individual’s age, overall health, the severity of the injury, and adherence to the physiotherapy program. It’s important that you maintain realistic expectations and commit to your treatment plan to achieve the best results.

Optimal Frequency of Physiotherapy for Tennis Elbow

The frequency of physiotherapy sessions can significantly impact the effectiveness of treatment for tennis elbow. In the early stages of treatment, more frequent sessions help reduce pain and inflammation. Your physiotherapist may recommend multiple sessions per week at this stage. As the condition begins to improve and your symptoms become more manageable, the frequency of sessions may be reduced. This could even be adjusted to once a week to focus on rehabilitation exercises and ensure proper technique. 

Once recovery is well underway, fewer sessions may be needed. However, occasional check-ins with a physiotherapist can help prevent the recurrence of the condition. Each treatment plan should be personalized, taking into account the individual’s specific needs, goals, and progress.

Don’t Let Pain Be Your Reality

Tennis elbow can be a painful and debilitating condition, but with the right physiotherapy approach, recovery is not only possible but probable. That said, it is important to understand that recovering from tennis elbow with the help of physiotherapy is a journey that requires patience and persistence. At Expert Physio in Burnaby, we are committed to providing personalized and effective physiotherapy to help you overcome pain and regain your active lifestyle. Contact us today to learn more about our treatments or to schedule an appointment.

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