Tennis elbow is a degenerative condition of the tendon fibers that attach on the bony prominence (lateral epicondyle) on the outside of the elbow. It is also known as ‘lateral epicondylitis‘ . The exact cause of tennis elbow is not known, but it does tend to occur after repetitive use of the Common Extensor Tendon such as in tennis (hence the name) and happens mostly in patients between the ages of 30 – 50 years.

The first sign of tennis elbow is usually tenderness and pain when pressure is applied to the lateral epicondyle and a dull constant pain or sharp shooting pain may be felt during activities such as lifting a heavy object or shaking hands. Swelling may be present. A general weakness and deconditioning of muscles in the affected arm may be noticed. The timescale for recovery from Tennis Elbow may vary from 6 months to two years.


Treatment of tennis elbow involves:

Rest – This does not mean total rest but a period of time avoiding those activities that specifically aggravate your pain. Your physiotherapist will show you how to move to keep your elbow working but to avoid pain

Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications which will have been prescribed by your GP/Doctor

Physiotherapy – This involves restoring pain-free movement in your elbow and reconditioning the muscles not only around the elbow but within the whole upper limb. If you have a lot of stiffness/ pain in your elbow or associated neck/upper back pain you may need one to one treatment.

However the most important part of treatment is your home exercise programme. You will be shown a series of exercises to do either in a group setting or one to one setting

Remember: Understanding your problem is key to your recovery so if anything isn’t clear please ask your physiotherapist

Injections – These may provide relief of acute symptoms but there is some evidence that the overall course of the condition may be unaltered or even increased.

Surgery – Occasionally some patients do not respond to the Physiotherapy Programme and so Surgery is required – the goal of any surgery is to reduce pain and increase range of movement. The operation usually performed is called a Lateral (Tennis elbow) Release of the Elbow and involves a small incision over the lateral epicondyle area and separation of the common extensor origin from the lateral epicondyle.

What are the risks of having a Tennis Elbow Release?

All operations involve an element of risk, these are very small but you need to be aware of them and can discuss them with your doctor at any time.

The risks are:

  • Complications relating to the anaesthetic
  • Infection
  • Persistent symptoms – the operation is said to be successful in approximately 80% of patients.


Click here to download an information sheet about Tennis Elbow.