Lateral Epicondylalgia/Tennis Elbow: How it is Treated

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illustration of the inside of a human elbow

What is one cause of pain in the boney point at the outside of the elbow? A correct answer is “lateral epicondylalgia,” aka “tennis elbow.” Oddly enough, tennis elbow doesn’t just bother tennis players; in 95 percent of cases, it affects non-athletes. This can be frustrating and confusing to those who have never swung a racquet. They wonder what they’ve done to bring this painful condition on themselves and why they can’t get rid of it. What these people need is information about what tennis elbow/lateral epicondylalgia is and how it is treated.

If Tennis Doesn’t Cause Lateral Epicondylalgia, What Does?

Lateral epicondylalgia is a painful condition caused by inflammation. It affects the lateral epicondyle of the humerus bone (the elbow). Spending hours on the tennis court can cause this condition. Oftentimes, though, this is not the cause of lateral epicondylalgia. Working in environments “that require repetitive, forceful, heavy manual tasks, non-neutral wrist positions (like twisting), and repetitive gripping” can also cause tennis elbow, commented physiotherapist Michael Curtis.

How to Treat Tennis Elbow

Unless patients seek treatment, the symptoms of tennis elbow can last for four years or more. While this is unacceptable to most people, many do not seek treatment for lateral epicondylalgia. Part of the reason for this is that they don’t know what treatments to pursue.

Treatments for lateral epicondylalgia are varied and include…

  1. Rest
  2. Strengthening exercises
  3. Activity modification
  4. Joint mobilization
  5. Pain-relieving drugs
  6. Physiotherapy
  7. Corticosteroid injections
  8. Ice therapy
  9. Use of an elbow counterforce brace
  10. Surgery

Physiotherapy is a Superior Treatment Option for Tennis Elbow

All of the treatments listed above can be effective depending upon the needs of individual patients. However, a physiotherapist is a primary healthcare provider equipped to help those affected with lateral epicondylalgia get pain relief. PTs accomplish this through methods such as education, exercises, and stretching.

  • Education — Educating patients about lateral epicondylalgia is part of a physiotherapist’s job. He or she will explain what tennis elbow is, how the patient developed it, and demonstrate ways to ease its symptoms.


  • Exercises — Exercises are at the heart of physiotherapy. A physiotherapist will custom design an exercise program for patients with lateral epicondylalgia. The program should be practiced in the clinic and at home. These special exercises will strengthen the patient’s muscles and promote pain relief.


  • Stretching — Stretching can be a key in managing tennis elbow. A physiotherapist will teach patients specific stretches that ease pain and facilitate healing.

There are many helpful treatments for tennis elbow, but physiotherapy may be the most helpful of all. Remember, only a doctor or physiotherapist can diagnose you with lateral epicondylalgia. Contact a physiotherapist for more information.

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