Do I have Tennis Elbow?

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is the name given to a condition which is also known as Lateral Epicondylalgia, or Lateral Epicondylosis. This means pain on the ‘outside’ of the elbow, and it can be started by injury to a tendon in this region. Tennis elbow is very common. At any given time, between 1% and 3% of the population will have Tennis Elbow. It can cause significant pain and it can make simple tasks difficult and/or painful to do. 

But I don’t play Tennis!

Although some people get Tennis Elbow from playing tennis, it is more common for people to get symptoms of tennis elbow with other tasks. These may include heavy or repetitive manual work or even the stresses of normal daily life.

Not play tennis

 What are the symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

Most people with Tennis Elbow first notice pain on the ‘outside’ of the elbow. Usually, this comes on after heavy or repetitive use of the arm and hand. Examples of things that tend to make the pain worse are:

  • Lifting with the elbow straight (for example, lifting a grocery bag, or a full kettle)
  • Lifting objects from a table with the palm facing downwards
  • Tight squeezing with the affected hand (for example, to open a jar)

Elbow anatomy simple

What can be done about it?

The best first step is an appointment with a hand therapist. At this appointment, the hand therapist will first ask questions about your condition. They will then perform an examination including tests to determine whether there could be other elbow problems causing some or all of the pain. Many types of therapy treatment techniques are available. For most people with Tennis Elbow, a program of gentle, pain-free exercises for the elbow is important.

Other techniques include joint mobilisations to reduce pain, dry needling to reduce pain, techniques for restoring nerve movement in the arm, and advice regarding different ways to use your arm when working. Which techniques are used in your case will depend on the details of your situation.

How long will this last?

Tennis elbow often involves a relatively prolonged recovery process, even with the best management.The type of treatment that you will receive from our clinic has been shown to provide effective relief [Bisset et al. BMJ 2006; Coombes et al JAMA 2013]. Anticipated recovery time from the symptoms depends on many factors and is best discussed in person with your hand therapist.

My doctor has referred me for a cortisone injection. Will this help?

The best current research indicates that overall, results of treatment of Tennis Elbow with cortisone injection are worse at 3, 6 and 12 months after injection in comparison to treatment with physiotherapy or hand therapy (Hand Therapists can be Occupational Therapists too). Also, the symptoms are more likely to come back after treatment with cortisone injection, than after treatment with physiotherapy [Bisset et al. BMJ 2006; Coombes et al JAMA 2013]. [Cortisone was also found to be worse than a "wait and see" approach at the 6 and 12 month mark].

Elbow injection landmark