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Tennis elbow – Is it anything to do with tennis?


As we know from our myth buster post on Monday, there are lots of possible causes of ‘tennis elbow’, mostly nothing to do with tennis. This blog will explore what tennis elbow actually is, how we get it & what Physiotherapy can do to help you resolve it.


‘Tennis elbow’ is a term used to describe pain arising from the tendons on the outside of your elbow. The tendons insert onto the lateral epicondyle of the humerus (the long bone of the upper arm), giving rise to the clinical term, lateral epicondyle tendinopathy. The tendons that insert here are responsible for movements of both the wrist and fingers and are involved in wrist stability during gripping activities.


The main symptoms of ‘tennis elbow’ are pain on a specific point on the outside of the elbow, worse on movements of the wrist or gripping problems. It can be worse when first starting to use the arm after a period of rest and then eases off a little. There can be a sensation of stiffness in the tendon first thing on a morning.


A tendon attaches a muscle to a bone & comprises mainly type I collagen. Tendon irritation occurs through either underloading (prolonged rest) or overloading (too much repetitive activity). Essentially, tendons don’t like change, particularly anything sudden.

As there are so many things we do in everyday life that involves a repetitive or sudden motion of our hands, there are so many possible causes of ‘tennis elbow’. Keyboard use, manual work involving a screwdriver/drill/hammer, musical instrument use, cooking, cleaning, prolonged/repetitive writing to name but a few possible causes.


Tennis? Well, technically & sometimes yes if the grip or the racket head is the wrong size, but tennis as the cause of ‘tennis elbow’ is not often seen in clinical practice.

So what can physiotherapy do? Well, firstly ensure the correct diagnosis as there are other causes of pain on the outside of the elbow. We will also need to identify other health problems & lifestyle factors that can predispose or influence tendon problems such as diabetes, smoking & obesity to ensure they are well managed. If it is ‘tennis elbow’, we will try to identify & modify the likely cause of the problem, which will be specific to each individual. Then it is a case of gradually building up your load tolerance to exercise/activity again through a variety of manual techniques & exercise.


Call Harbourside Physiotherapy today to discuss your issue with one of our Physiotherapy team to see if Physiotherapy &/or hydrotherapy can help you…


Call Harbourside now and book into see one of our Specialist Physiotherapists!



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