Can Physiotherapy Help in Curing Tennis Elbow Disorder & How Long is the Recovery Period?

Tendon is a connective tissue which binds the muscles to the bone. Swelling of tendons for any reason is called tendinitis. Tennis elbow is a kind of tendinitis characterized by pain in the arm and elbow. In most of the cases there will not be any relationship between playing tennis and the medical condition of tennis elbow. There may be different activities which results in tennis elbow. Though it can occur in any age, usually the people around 40 years of age will suffer more. Tennis elbow can be of two types, one is acute and another one is chronic. Acute form is caused due to the injury caused to the elbow whereas in chronic form there will not be any inflammation as seen in acute condition. Instead, it is caused by the interruption of blood supply to the muscles and accumulation of chemicals causing transmission of pain in the nerves. Here the discussion will be about the acute tennis elbow.

Can Physiotherapy Help in Curing Tennis Elbow Disorder?

Physiotherapy is a kind of treatment to the different bone and muscle abnormality or injury. Physiotherapy for tennis elbow pain involves some procedures like exercises, massage, laser treatment, heat treatment, etc. The main aim of physiotherapy is to make a good flow of blood circulation to the parts affected. Sufficient blood supply in turn satisfies the oxygen demand in the surrounding areas of elbow pain. Advantages of physiotherapy are listed below:

  • It strengthens the muscles
  • Physiotherapy Decreases stiffness
  • Increases flexibility
  • Physiotherapy Improves flow of blood
  • Oxygen supply is supported
  • Helps fast healing

All these facilitate effective use of joints and cure tennis elbow efficiently.

Causes for Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow may be because of usage of thumb, fore finger and middle finger more frequently for any precision work or for gripping actions. Repeated movements can be expected in the people working in different fields such as typing, painting, carpentry, etc. This disorder is mostly common in people who play games like fencing, tennis, weight lifting, squash and racquetball.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

The main symptom of tennis elbow is elbow pain. The pain may originate from the muscles outside the knob like structure in the elbow region and sometimes it can radiate to the whole hand moving to lower and upper arm. The individuals have pain while performing activities which involve the particular muscles of the hand. They find difficulty in holding an object tightly, straightening the wrist, shaking hands, lifting anything, making fist, and opening the door etc.

Treatment for Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow heals by itself gradually with time. Important thing to note here is to give sufficient rest to the paining muscles. The following are helpful in speedy recovery:

Some exercises for hand movement are helpful to treat tennis elbow if performed regularly. The stiffness would be reduced and the flexibility of the hand movement increases by these exercises. Exercises should be performed 3 to 5 times a day very slowly.

Keeping the ice over the paining muscles for about 20 to 30 minutes for every 3 or 4 hours would be helpful in reducing the swelling and pain by constricting the blood vessels. This eventually causes numbness and cures fast. This icing can be performed until the tennis elbow pain is completely gone. This is actually done immediately after injury for 2 to 3 days.

Doctors prescribe NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) if the patient is unable to bear the pain. These drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. They have disadvantages too if taken without consulting doctors as they may prolong healing process by causing bleeding, ulcers etc.

Further pain and strain can be reduced by using straps meant for elbow pain.

As a short term treatment for tennis elbow condition, steroids can be prescribed by the doctor in the form of tablets and/or injections.

Types of Physiotherapy for Tennis Elbow

The type of physical therapy is decided by therapist depending on the severity of the pain and suggests specific exercises. It differs from person to person and also depends on the place where the muscles are affected. Some of the exercises which are usually suggested by therapist for elbow pain are:

A dumbbell of less than 2 pounds can be held in the paining hand. Palm should face down. The person should sit down with elbow placed on the knee. In this position, the wrist is moved down and then up or vice versa.

A towel is held with both the hands and is twisted like as if removing water from it. This exercise is done in both the directions.

A rubber band is used to do this exercise. It is placed around all the five fingers and is stretched slowly. A few seconds are spent in this position, coming back to normal position.

The hand which is paining is placed straight. With the help of another hand, the fingers of paining hand are stretched and held for 10 seconds. The exercise is repeated with palm of injured hand facing down.

The arm is held to make 900. With the help of another hand, the palm is made to face upward and then stretched in opposite direction. This provides a good feel of stretching and pain is relieved to some extent.

All the above exercises are performed 3 to 5 times if possible. These are worked out up to 10 days or till the pain vanishes. The physiotherapy definitely helps the patient to recover soon.

In the beginning, icing is done for first 3 days. Afterwards heat treatment is given to support healing. The muscles are relaxed on providing heat and relieve pain.

Cold laser therapy is a noninvasive safe method used for tennis elbow. It is a painless treatment which is best suited for all ages. As this method is very effective in healing the disorder, it may reduce the medication. Cold laser therapy is also called as low level laser therapy. Here the light enters through the skin and reduces the inflammation without heating or affecting the area. Though the pain is relieved immediately, a few sittings as advised by the physician would bring better results.

How Long is the Recovery Period for Tennis Elbow Disorder?

In case of mild elbow pain caused due to tennis elbow condition, one may get relief in about 40 to 56 days. Tennis elbow pain may last for 6 months to 12 months if the pain is severe. In few other cases, the pain will persist even for 2 years. In such cases, rehab and sufficient rest would help.


Elbow pain cures by itself if the patient gives sufficient time and rest to the paining muscles. In many cases of elbow pain, physiotherapy and home remedies including exercises, icing and others help a lot. Some more cases need involvement of a well-trained therapist. Few people with elbow pain may need some medications. Doctors suggest surgery if the elbow pain persists more than one year and/or if all the other noninvasive techniques are not effective.

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 19, 2019

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