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What is Tennis Elbow and How Do We Treat it?

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral elbow tendinopathy or lateral epicondylitis, refers to a painful condition that occurs when the tendons attaching to the outside of the elbow get overloaded through repetitive activity involving the elbow and wrist. This condition affects 1-3% of people each year, and is common among athletes, those with manual labor jobs and people over age 40. 

Physical therapy treatment for tennis elbow includes:

  • Education regarding short-term activity modification to avoid aggravating symptoms 
  • Modalities including dry needling or taping to decrease pain 
  • Manual therapy to improve joint movement and decrease muscle tightness
  • Progressive shoulder, elbow and wrist exercise to improve coordination and strengthen muscles and tendons 

Physical therapy is recommended as a first-line treatment for tennis elbow. With specialized assessment and treatment of unique symptoms, physical therapy aims to facilitate a faster decrease in pain and return to normal function. 

References:

  • Coombes, B. K., Bisset, L., & Vicenzino, B. (2015). Management of lateral elbow tendinopathy: one size does not fit all. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy45(11), 938-949. doi:10.2519/jospt.2015.5841
  • Day, J. M., Lucado, A. M., & Uhl, T. L. (2019). A comprehensive rehabilitation program for treating lateral elbow tendinopathy. International journal of sports physical therapy14(5), 818.
  • Karanasios, S., Korakakis, V., Whiteley, R., Vasilogeorgis, I., Woodbridge, S., & Gioftsos, G. (2021). Exercise interventions in lateral elbow tendinopathy have better outcomes than passive interventions, but the effects are small: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 2123 subjects in 30 trials. British journal of sports medicine55(9), 477-485.

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