How Physical Therapy Can Help Tennis Elbow


While its moniker may imply otherwise, tennis elbow is a painful affliction that commonly affects people who never play racket sports. The condition, known medically as lateral epicondylitis, is a repetitive movement injury that strikes the arm and elbow. Sufferers will experience a strong soreness in the outer forearm muscles next to the elbow.

These symptoms usually become most apparent when the palm is turned up. Without proper medical treatment and physical therapy, tennis elbow can become a chronic condition and make it difficult to perform certain everyday tasks.

What Causes the Pain?

The name “tennis elbow” refers to the prevalence of the injury among tennis players. However, any activity that involves repetitive wrist or arm movement can lead to tennis elbow. Common causes include industrial work, recreational activities and monotonous desk jobs. In fact, only a fraction of those afflicted with lateral epicondylitis are actually tennis players.

Repetitive movements that strain the arm can eventually damage muscles and tendons. Since tendons connect your muscles to your bones, they are important for gripping and flexing. If you constantly twist or turn your arm, those tendons could actually start to tear. This will then lead to inflammation and added stress on your forearm. In some cases, a direct blow to the arm can lead to tennis elbow.

What Are the Treatment Options?

There are various prescription medicines that can target muscle soreness and inflammation. Even over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin can provide temporary relief. However, the best treatment for tennis elbow will involve a collaborative effort between a medical physician and physical therapist. A physical therapy program can expedite a full recovery and help prevent any future recurrence of symptoms.

As you rest and give your tendons a chance to heal, you may lose some strength in your arm. Through specialized treatments and exercises, physical therapy will help to alleviate the pain and improve endurance in your muscles. A physical therapist will work to restore motion to your elbow, arm, wrist and fingers without using invasive treatments.

What Does Physical Therapy Involve?

An effective physical therapy program will be personalized to treat your specific injury. This will mean finding the exact movements that caused your condition. The physical therapist will also search for any joint restrictions or weaknesses. After the root of the problem has been diagnosed, the therapist will prescribe an exercise regimen. You will eventually be assigned to complete these exercises at home.

Your therapist will guide you throughout every stage of your program. If necessary, your exercise regimen will be adjusted to meet your needs. The therapist may address continued soreness via cold therapies, medication and other techniques.

Getting the Necessary Treatment

Tennis elbow is a painful condition that affects everyone from cooks and painters to musicians and, yes, tennis players. It is especially prevalent in adults between the ages of 30 and 50. Fortunately, there are reliable treatment options. The most efficient way to enjoy a full recovery from tennis elbow is to see a doctor and enter a physical therapy program.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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