Physical therapy as the easiest way to diagnose and treat tennis elbow. Physical therapy as the easiest way to diagnose and treat tennis elbow.

What is Tennis Elbow: 10 Essential Facts to Know About the Condition

If you were to mention one of the most interesting games in the world, tennis is definitely at the top of the list for most people. There are so many reasons why a lot of people love this game. And as much as it seems that only hands are involved in the whole game, under the surface, you will discover that the whole body is involved.

However, the aim of this article is not to learn about tennis but to highlight why tennis elbow is named as such when tennis, at most times, is not even the cause of the condition. So, let’s dive deeper into the topic.

1. Duration of Recovery of Tennis Elbow

Tennis players are more susceptible to Tennis Elbow
Image by Jim De Ramos/Pexels/Copyright 2018

Tennis elbow is the pain experienced on the outer lateral side of the elbow. It can begin as minor pain that comes and goes, but over time, it might develop into a constant pain that is felt at any time when you try to use your forearm or elbow daily. In simple terms, tennis elbow falls under all types of elbow pain.

Tennis elbow might take weeks, months, or even years to recover fully. Several variables, including how severe your initial pain was and how well you adhered to your doctor’s instructions, may affect how long it takes you to recover.

Although you may have relief much sooner than that, the tendon typically heals over six months to a year, or sometimes even more. Even if you adhere to your treatment plan, tennis elbow might occasionally continue for up to two years.

You may need to take preventative measures, such as learning a new approach to perform an activity, to make sure the injury doesn’t flare up again. To avoid reinjuring yourself, you might need to alter your grip or your equipment.

To give your tendon enough time to stretch and limber up, thoroughly warm up before exercising. After your activity is complete, apply ice to minimize swelling. Be patient, above everything. It takes time to heal.

2. What Are the Types of Elbow Pain?

Before getting on deeper with tennis elbow, we need to understand the types of elbow pains so that other elbow pains will not be mistaken for tennis elbow. Under elbow pain, there is elbow arthritis and elbow epicondylitis1.

Elbow arthritis is a pain as a result of previous pain. It is not a very common type of pain and is often associated with previous injuries or age.

On the other hand, elbow epicondylitis is the type of elbow pain resulting from overuse of other tendons. Now, under epicondylitis, there is the medial epicondylitis and the lateral epicondylitis. The medial epicondylitis is also known as the golfer’s elbow, and the lateral epicondylitis is known as the tennis elbow.

The golfer’s elbow is less common than the tennis elbow. The elbow has epicondyles (bony bumps) that tendons attach themselves to; the condyle in the middle is known as the medial epicondyle2, and the one on the outer side is known as the lateral epicondyle3.

ELBOW PAIN CAUSES AND TREATMENT - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

3. How Does Tennis Elbow Happen?

To understand tennis elbow, you’ll need to be aware of its anatomy. The upper arm bone and the forearm form the elbow joint. The forearm muscles that extend the wrist and open the fingers are attached to the outer part of the elbow, called the lateral epicondyle. Another group of flexor muscles attach to the inner or medial epicondyle.

An imbalance between these muscle groups can cause a shift in the humeral radial joint. The shift in the joint will affect the tendons that hold the muscles and the upper arm bone together; the tendon damage, which is felt, is what brings about tennis elbow.

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a tendon injury resulting from the tendon’s tear and wear attached to the lateral epicondyle. Often, the pain is felt on the outer elbow.

When the forearm muscles are overused, all the tension travels up to the tendon, making it bear all the load with time. The tendon develops a condition called tendonitis4.

In most cases, a tennis elbow has a mechanical cause, and rarely has the data shown it can also be caused by certain biotics. The extensor that often leads to the tennis elbow is known as the carpi radialis. Its unique structure exposes it to mechanical injury when the arm is moved in any direction.

4. What Are the Causes of Tennis Elbow?

Tendon injuries are the main cause of tennis elbow. When your forearm muscles and tendons experience unbalanced tension, microtears will form. In the healing process, there will be inflammation and even swelling, which can cause pain in the elbow.

Tennis Elbow,  why it hurts?  Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

4.1. Activities

Tennis elbow is not just for sports people; for anyone involved in activities or jobs requiring repetitive forearm movement, it is easy to develop a tennis elbow. Sports trainers, Plumbers, butchers, and carpenters all have a high chance of developing a tennis elbow.

4.2. Age

When it comes to age, tennis elbow often affects people aged from 20 to 50; this is most likely because, at this age range, most people are active, ages. Therefore, it is easy for them to participate in activities that can put tension on the elbow joint tendons and ligaments5, and also easy to overuse.

4.3. Unknown Causes

There are many times when lateral epicondylitis occurs without any specific cause; it just happens and disappears after a few days.

5. Why is It Called Tennis Elbow?

There should be a reason why this condition is referred to as a tennis elbow, even though it is not always an injury caused by tennis. Even if you need to be better informed on how tennis works, you know that tennis uses their hands more than any game.

Because of this, there is a high chance this condition affects tennis players more often than any other group of people, hence the condition’s name. The reoccurrence of this condition among tennis players led to its name. Given the name, it does not mean that only tennis players have this condition; it can happen to anyone.

As long as individuals use their forearm or elbow joint, they are more susceptible to tennis elbow than any other group. This means that people who work in fields that require excessive arm use are more likely to have a tennis elbow, including tennis players, golfers, and butchers.

6. What Are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

Image by MART PRODUCTION/Pexels/Copyright 2021
Image by MART PRODUCTION/Pexels/Copyright 2021

Sharp elbow pain: The pain is very specific on the elbow; if it has been there for a long while, it can radiate to the shoulder area, the neck sometimes, and down to your wrist.

The tension that is created may affect the radial nerve that runs along the arm, neck, and shoulder, and as a result, you will feel pain anywhere along the line of the radial nerve. However, when it comes to pain and numbness of the wrist, it is not necessarily because of the compressed radial nerve. Sometimes, it is carpel tunnel syndrome.

Swelling of the elbow: Since there will be inflammation on the joint, it is normal for severe swelling to manifest on the joint itself in some severe cases.

Weak and painful grip: As long as the tendons and ligaments are strained, you will experience pain. Therefore, with tennis elbow pain, it may be challenging to pick up things, be they heavy or light, or even do simple daily activities such as sweeping, hammering, or using the keyboard.

6.1. When Should You See a Doctor?

Not all elbow pains are tennis elbow; other conditions can look or seem like tennis elbow. Most elbow pain takes several weeks or days after taking painkillers; others do your stretches.

If you think the pain is taking a while, you should see a doctor. When you notice redness and serious swelling of the elbow joint, it is time for you to see a doctor. When you feel numbness or tingling, it is time to visit a doctor.

The sure way to diagnose tennis elbow is by having it diagnosed by professional doctors. Many people tend to self-diagnose and start their treatment plans, but there are many chances that you might misdiagnose the pain.

An X-ray can be used to diagnose tennis elbows. The machine will examine the bone and joint structure and help the doctors see whether the elbow pain is arthritis6.

Electromyography will be used to assess the new activities of your arms to see if the pain you are having is more of a nerve-related case rather than a tendon, ligament, or joint-related case. Magnetic resonance imagery (MRI scan)7 is used to examine the joint to see the depth of the damage on the tendon.

Physical exam or assessment is the most used method at all levels; healthcare professionals or physical therapy clinics will test your range of motion, pain level, and stand things you can and cannot do. However, with this method, it can be easy to misdiagnose the pain.

7. How Do You Treat Tennis Elbow?

Image by Ryutaro Tsukata/Pexels/Copyright 2020
Image by Ryutaro Tsukata/Pexels/Copyright 2020

People with tennis elbow tend to heal after a few weeks. There is an absolute way of treating tennis elbow. The best thing that can be done is to ensure treatment is consistent with what the medical professionals have laid out for you.

However, some things can be done to help with all the complications associated with Tenno’s elbow. Different methods are used to treat tennis elbows, and they are classified into three parts.

7.1. Traditional Methods

Traditional methods are all methods that do not involve skin innervation. Physical therapy and all other surface treatments, such as exercise, massage, extracorporeal shock wave therapy, and rest, fall here.

7.1.1. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is one of the sure ways that you can use to treat a tennis elbow. Many modalities and treatments, such as electrotherapy shock wave therapy, can help you manage the pain best.

A physical therapist will introduce different exercises, muscle-stimulating techniques, and treatment regimes. It takes a while to see significant changes, but as mentioned before, consistency is the key to healing.

7.1.2. Extracorporeal Wave Therapy

This is a noninvasive wave therapy in which the waves are sent to the joint to reinjury the tendon area and break the scar tissue penetrating the tendons and ligaments. The reinjury healing process leads to the regeneration of blood vessels and increases blood flow.

7.1.3. Rest

Since Tennis elbow is often mechanically induced, it is best to avoid all the movements that will strain your elbow joint by having plenty of armrests to allow healing and recovery of the joints along with all the other treatments the professionals offer.

7.1.4. Elbow Braces

Wearing elbow braces can help you accelerate the healing of the injured tendon. The braces compress the joint, thus reducing pain, and also regulate the movements that your joint can make, and, in turn, quickening the healing process.

In most cases, if you are a sportsperson, you are advised to wear elbow braces even if you are not suffering from tennis elbow pain.

Braces are there to minimize the pain by repositioning the muscles. In most cases, braces ease pain by half. There are different brace; your choice depends on what makes you comfortable. Braces do not treat the essentially treat tennis elbow; they help you carry out activities with lesser pain. If you have pain with a brace, you must take them off.

Image by Kampus Production/Pexels/Copyright 2021
Image by Kampus Production/Pexels/Copyright 2021

7.1.5. Medications

There are many complications with Tennis elbow. Different medicines sometimes ease pain and swelling as per doctors’ instructions. Medicines such as ibuprofen can reduce the inflammation of the joint to a large extent.

Pain medicine often does not guarantee complete healing or completely stop the pain, but it might regulate all the other complications associated with tennis elbow.

7.2. Minimum Invasive Treatment

As the name suggests, the skin will be intervened at a very minimum amount with this treatment method.

7.2.1. Steroid Injection

The cortisone injection8 can be used; it is injected directly into the pain area, thus making it effective. Most people prefer his method, but the pain might often reoccur. If you are wondering how long an elbow injection lasts, it can last from weeks to months, depending on the patient.

7.2.2. Physical Exam

This is the most used method at all levels; healthcare professionals or physical therapy clinics will test your range of motion, pain level, and stand things you can and cannot do. However, with this method, it can be easy to misdiagnose the pain.

8. How Long Does Tennis Elbow Take to Be Completely Healed?

Tennis elbow recovery should last a maximum of a year with effective treatment when treating joints. When in sickness, the only thing that runs through the mind is how long one will be in that situation and, more importantly, if there is any way of making the healing process shorter.

Most people will decide to choose the shorter ways, but it should be remembered that ligament and tendon injuries or tennis elbow surgery do not take a day or a week to recover.

Under normal circumstances, a tennis elbow will take six months to a year to heal; sometimes, it can extend to 2 years. The speed of healing often depends on a consistent treatment routine, physical therapy9, and following all the necessary precautions that the medical care professionals have given you.

8.1. What Are the Factors That Affect The Healing Process?

Image by Thirdman/Pexels/Copyright 2021
Image by Thirdman/Pexels/Copyright 2021

Many patients have taken longer than normal to recover from tennis elbow, even after several physical therapy sessions. The factors that can affect the healing of a tennis elbow are listed below:

8.1.1. Misdiagnosis

There are many instances in which other types of elbow pain are mistaken for tennis elbow, and as a result, people receive treatment that is not required.

8.1.2. Activities

It can be easy to keep doing the same activities that lead to the pain in the first place; for most people, this is because their work requires them to use their forearms, so they are forced to take treatments and at the same time continue with their daily activities without realizing that the tearing of the tendons will not get any better.

8.1.3. Age

Age is another major factor that can contribute to the healing process of the tennis elbow. We know that for a tennis elbow to heal completely, the tendons of the radical’s carp need to heal and regenerate. However, the regeneration process in the elderly is generally slower. Thus, it is not easy for older patients to recover easily from tennis elbow.

8.1.4. Treatment Given

There are different levels of tennis elbow, and depending on the level, different treatments will be administered.

As much as people think that physical therapy, such as shockwave therapy, can treat all joint issues, there are many cases where it just does not work, and there is a need to take the treatment plan to another level.

Therefore, if your doctors understand the treatment you need, you will heal faster by sticking to a treatment plan that does not service your pain level.

8.1.5. Inconsistency

It is easy to give when receiving tennis elbow treatment, often because the healing process can take longer than normal, and most people give up or skip some of their physical therapy sessions.

9. How to Prevent Tennis Elbow

It is known that in the long run, the shorter ways lead to destruction; healing a tennis elbow is not child’s play. There are many permanent and temporary solutions, but the focus should not just be present; the future should be the picture of everything we do. We are taking precautions not to overuse the forearm muscles and tendons.

All gamers or anyone who feels they need to extend their arm muscles against workplace resistance, such as weightlifting activities, must learn and practice techniques to help them find balance.

Most people tend to ignore the pain, and often, when performing activities, the pain might not be as intense, and it kicks in when one is done. If you notice any elbow pain, please check it immediately.

This will help you avoid chronic pain and provide extended rehabilitation time. Wearing braces is also a good way to help avoid tennis elbow, as the braces will help you prevent overextension of your elbow.

10. Do’s and Don’t’s for a Tennis Elbow

Image by Karolina Grabowska/Pexels/Copyright 2020
Image by Karolina Grabowska/Pexels/Copyright 2020

There are personal roles that can be done and some that should be avoided to help with the tennis elbow aside from medical assistance.

If you are concerned about how long your tennis elbow lasts, you can quicken the process by avoiding all the things that accelerate and overstrain your joint; therefore, you need to give your injured armrest as much as you can to promote the tendon’s healing and prevent further tearing.

10.1. Do’s

  • Massage your area now and then; if you do not know how to do it, you can visit physical therapy clinics for professional massages.
  • For load management, make sure that your forearm muscles bear a reasonable weight.
  • Take breaks when doing activities that require repetitive arm motion.
  • Avoid all arm movements that require you to reach your end range of motion.
  • Use both arms to lift things.
  • Avoid anything that requires you to grasp.

10.2. Don’t’s

All the activities that cause tension in your joints should be avoided. These activities include the ones that involve over-extension or rotation of the wrist.

For sports personalities, avoid overdoing physical activities that can result in tension in your joints or any exercise that will hurt you. Doing this will give time for the tendons to heal.

Final Words

It is completely normal for an individual to feel like the road to treating a tennis elbow is taking forever; that is why the major concern of every patient is how long it takes to treat the tennis elbow.

However, tennis elbow treated professionals will take little time, and more importantly, if a tennis elbow is diagnosed early and treated, the healing process will be much smoother than expected. It all comes down to how badly the patient wants to be healed; the earlier, the better.

For a better treatment regime, make sure that at all times, you work with medical professionals in the field instead of self-diagnosis and treatment.

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  2. Pezzutti, Dante, et al. “Pediatric medial epicondyle fracture management: a systematic review.” Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics 40.8 (2020): e697-e702. ↩︎
  3. Ma, Kun-Long, and Hai-Qiang Wang. “Management of lateral epicondylitis: a narrative literature review.” Pain Research and Management 2020 (2020). ↩︎
  4. Cutts, S., et al. “Tennis elbow: A clinical review article.” Journal of Orthopaedics 17 (2020): 203-207. ↩︎
  5. Graf, Dimitri N., et al. “Elbow instability.” Seminars in Musculoskeletal Radiology. Vol. 25. No. 04. Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 2021. ↩︎
  6. Radu, Andrei-Flavius, and Simona Gabriela Bungau. “Management of rheumatoid arthritis: an overview.” Cells 10.11 (2021): 2857. ↩︎
  7. Weiskopf, Nikolaus, et al. “Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging of brain anatomy and in vivo histology.” Nature Reviews Physics 3.8 (2021): 570-588. ↩︎
  8. Giovannetti de Sanctis, Edoardo, et al. “The efficacy of injections for partial rotator cuff tears: a systematic review.” Journal of Clinical Medicine 10.1 (2020): 51. ↩︎
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Last Updated on by Arnab Nandi


  • Oge

    Oge is a passionate content writer and a physiotherapist in the making who aspires to bring creativity to life and add more spice to daily activities, helping you discover things head-on before your eyes meet them.

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    Tahsina is a graduate and freelance content writer and editor. She has a penchant for crafting compelling content. An avid reader, Tahsina deeply appreciates the nuances of the English language and will leave no stone unturned when it comes to rectifying grammatical errors. She has previous experiences in content writing and editing, which has furnished her with various SEO techniques and plagiarism-free writing abilities, and is looking forward to putting her skills to good use.


    • Bachelor of Arts (B.A)
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