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Physical Therapy for Tennis Elbow

by Patty Weasler, RN March 13, 2020 0 Comments

resistance band exercise

Physical therapy for tennis elbow is a safe, conservative treatment that works the forearm tendons and muscles. Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an overuse condition that can happen in just about anyone but is more common in tennis players, plumbers, and anyone who performs similar repetitive motions. If you are suffering from this painful condition check out your local physical therapist to develop a plan to get you back to all the activities you enjoy.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

A physical therapist is specially trained to evaluate your injury and find ways to get you back to the feeling like yourself again. Many people with tennis elbow prefer the conservative treatments done by a physical therapist because they look at the whole picture, not just try and cover up the injury. Take a look at the benefits below.

Strengthen Muscles

Tennis elbow treatment will include multiple different exercises and stretches to help heal your tendonitis. Strengthening your forearm muscles will help prevent future elbow pain and injury through improving your endurance to repetitive stress. Your physical therapist will guide you through a series of strengthening exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home, oftentimes giving you a handout that explains the steps to each exercise.

Try These Tennis Elbow Stretches

Improve Mobility

Physical therapy isn’t all about increasing muscle size. It also works on mobilizing your body and keeping those muscles and tendons pliable. It’s important to mobilize your elbow joint early to regain grip strength, provide pain relief, and improve overall function. If you’re having symptoms of tennis elbow it can be easy to let your armrest for too long. While some rest is important, and needed, resting too long can cause decreased arm strength and function. Working with your physical therapist will keep your arm mobile and help prevent that from happening.

Speed Recovery

A physical therapist’s entire goal is to get you better, faster. The exercise program they have you perform will help speed up healing time. Exercise and stretching draw more blood to the area that is being worked. Improved blood flow will help with the healing process by bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and tendons. Physical therapy can improve your arm in so many different ways.

Pain Relief

Your physical therapist will be able to recommend different strategies to help you find tennis elbow pain relief. Ice packs, anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen, and wearing a brace are a few options they may suggest. While a physical therapist’s overall goal is to heal your elbow, part of the healing process is becoming pain-free. Some people might need a steroid injection or other treatments from a doctor.   

Non-Surgical Rehabilitation

Treating tennis elbow typically starts with conservative non-surgical treatments like physical therapy and rest. When you meet with your doctor and physical therapist they will likely discuss what their goals are for your recovery. Come to your appointments with your own goals and expectations. The recovery expectations of a casual tennis player versus a professional athlete will look very different.


Non-surgical rehabilitation early goals for tennis elbow are to increase muscle endurance and develop a defense against repeated forearm and elbow stress. Getting you back to your daily activities and the sports you enjoy is the ultimate end goal.  


The specific exercises and stretching program your physical therapist gives you should be done for six to 12 weeks. However, follow any recommended guidelines you are given. After the initial rehab program is finished your physical therapist can give you a preventive maintenance plan to keep this painful condition at bay.

Post-Surgical Rehabilitation

If your doctor and physical therapist have decided your tennis elbow is so severe that it needs elbow surgery then your recovery will look rather different. The initial recovery after surgery will require you to wear a sling or brace to protect your elbow and immobilize it. After the initial recovery phase, your surgeon will have you stretch your elbow to mobilize the joint. 


The goal of surgery is to remove the damaged tendon, allowing you to move your elbow more easily and pain-free. Expect some soreness in your arm and elbow for a few weeks after surgery. Though surgery is a last resort option, it does eliminate elbow pain in the vast majority of people who have it done.  


After the surgery, you should be able to return to work in six to 12 weeks. If your job requires heavy use of your arm and elbow you might need to make some adjustments. Avoid lifting anything heavy during the initial recovery as well. Typically your surgeon will recommend waiting four to six months to exercise or play racquet sports again.

Safe and Effective Physical Therapy

Physical therapy for tennis elbow is a safe and effective treatment option. A physical therapist will evaluate your situation and develop specific exercises and stretches for you. If you need additional pain relief they can also recommend other methods like massage and braces. As always, with any new injury consult with your doctor for a firm diagnosis and safe treatment plan.




Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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