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How Effective Is Physiotherapy for Tennis Elbow?

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  • Written By: Paul Cartmell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Physiotherapy for tennis elbow is often prescribed by medical professionals to help patients regain strength and reduce pain the injured forearm. Techniques used by physical therapists can include exercise and mobilization, therapeutic ultrasound, electrotherapy, and laser treatments. Conclusions are difficult to draw on the effectiveness of most of these physiotherapy techniques because of the limited amount of research completed on the treatment of tennis elbow. Along with physiotherapy for tennis elbow, comparisons are often drawn with the use of corticosteroid injections and "wait and see" approaches to treating the condition.

Tennis elbow is a medical condition that causes pain and difficulty with the everyday use of the hand and arm. The condition is caused by overuse and repetitive use of the elbow and forearm, and is common in amateur tennis players. Also known as lateral epicondylitis, the injury is characterized by damage to the muscles and tendons of the forearm. Tennis elbow can occur as a result of sports-related activities and in work environments when hammering, screw turning, and computer work is undertaken on a regular basis.

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Treatment plans can include physiotherapy for tennis elbow injuries that commonly take the form of exercise and mobility-based therapy techniques. In research interpreted by the United Kingdom's National Health Service, exercise and mobilization techniques proved to be less effective treatments for tennis elbow six weeks after treatment began than corticosteroid injections and "wait and see" approaches. These results were shown in the improvement noticed by patients and therapists, along with pain relief provided by physiotherapy. Long-term effectiveness proved to be greater in physiotherapy for tennis elbow treatments than in other treatment forms based on a 52-week timescale. After one year of treatment, physiotherapy patients reported less additional treatments, such as the use of anti-inflammatory medications, than patients treated with other techniques.

The only treatment for tennis elbow to be shown effective using a placebo-based research trial is the use of therapeutic ultrasound. Clinical trials showed a slight increase in improvement for patients over those treated with a placebo, but the effectiveness of the treatment was small and could not be shown as a significant increase over a "wait and see" approach to treatment. Other treatment techniques offered as physiotherapy for tennis elbow have not been compared to placebo-based treatments and therefore cannot be rated for effectiveness. The results of limited trials for techniques such as hydrotherapy and electrotherapy do not provide evidence to support physiotherapy for tennis elbow as an effective treatment.

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Animandel
Post 3

I am not an athlete. I have been on a tennis court only a couple of times in my life, but this doesn't stop me from suffering with tennis elbow. My tennis elbow is the result of too much time spent on the computer I think. In any event, I have a couple of friend who have had the physiotherapy with mixed results.

One of my friends says the therapy took away her pain and allowed her to use her arm regularly. The other friend says she couldn't tell a difference after receiving the therapy.

Feryll
Post 2

@Sporkasia - I agree that the best step you can take once you begin to feel elbow pain from tennis elbow is to rest the arm. I have had this ailment on a couple of occasions. Once the intense pain begins there is little you can do with the affected arm that doesn't hurt. I have found that the best way to fight tennis elbow is to take preventative measures.

When I am in the weight room completing my workout, I always pay close attention to the muscles around the elbow. This is the area vulnerable to tennis elbow. The stronger and more flexible these muscles are the less likely you are to develop tennis elbow. There are numerous exercises you can complete to protect against tennis elbow.

Sporkasia
Post 1

I have dealt with tennis elbow on and off for more than 20 years. My problems first began when I was in college. In my case, the term tennis elbow was appropriate since playing tennis regularly from age five or six until the condition developed was what caused the problem in my case.

I have not tried therapeutic ultrasound, but if this treatment works then it will provide relief for a large number of people. Currently, the only thing that helps me when my tennis elbow begins to hurt is for me to take a week or more off from any stressful activity.

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