Tennis Elbow Pain

Tennis elbow is a common condition that can cause pain and weakness on the outside of the elbow.  Pain is usually caused by inflammation affecting the tendons in the wrist and back of the forearm.  It is commonly considered a condition that affects only those with physically intense occupations such as construction workers or carpenters.  However, it also affects more sedentary occupations such as office workers at an equal rate.  A wide variety of treatments are recommended.  These include bracing, anti-inflammatory medication, injections, surgery, and if you are lucky, physical therapy.

Tennis Elbow Prognosis

The prognosis of tennis elbow is a good.   Pain typically resolves on its own within 1 year with no treatment at all.  However, the reoccurrence rate of this condition is almost 10 percent within 1 year.  You can help prevent this by addressing the root cause of the problem.   The treatments listed above address the area of pain at the elbow, however, the neck, shoulder, and wrist can also be the root cause of pain which is why these treatments are sometimes ineffective.  Bracing, NSAIDs, injections and surgery can help address the pain, but will not cure the source of the problem if other areas are dysfunctional.

Physical Therapy Treatment Options 

There are two common things that can mimic tennis elbow or significantly contribute to the pain someone is experiencing.  The first would be the cervical spine.  Similar to sciatica in the lower back and legs, there can be irritation of nerves in the neck that cause elbow pain.  Treatments directed at the elbow may help, however, if the dysfunction in the cervical spine is not also addressed, the pain will persist.  Another contributing factor is the shoulder complex.  Strength and endurance deficits in the shoulder musculature can place excessive stress on the elbow leading to lateral elbow pain.  Rowing exercises are one option which can address these deficits.

Several treatments can be directed at the elbow to help reduce pain.  One of the most important things to do is strengthen the wrist extensors and affected tendon to help better tolerate daily activities or work demands that cause pain.  This is typically painful, but a skilled therapist can help find the right exercise to do this with minimal pain.  There may also be joint stiffness at the wrist or elbow contributing to pain.  Our therapists have advanced training in manual therapy and can find the proper manual treatment to address these areas if indicated.


The most important thing to consider when treating any condition is what the root cause of pain is.  Most common treatment approaches only address the pain and not the root cause of the pain.  Discerning tennis elbow from other conditions can be challenging.  A skilled physical therapist can work with you to identify all of the contributing areas. If you would like to avoid invasive treatments like injections or surgery, schedule an evaluation with a physical therapist today.

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