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How to Reduce Tennis Elbow Pain with Massage

by Patty Weasler, RN March 13, 2020 0 Comments

Elbow TENS Massager

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an overuse injury from repetitive stress to the arm and elbow. Also commonly referred to as “golfer’s elbow” or “mouse elbow”. Tennis elbow massage is one treatment option that provides relief for tendon inflammation outside the elbow. With multiple types of massage and tools to choose from we’re here to explain all your options and how they can help you get better faster.

How Does Massage Therapy Help?

Tennis elbow is an injury that can take a long time to heal. Many people will start treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and find that the pain relief isn’t sufficient. A massage therapist will assess your pain and tenderness, looking at your forearm muscles, wrist, hand, and elbow. He or she will likely ask when your pain started and what makes it worse. From there a massage therapy plan will be developed unique to your situation.


  • Reduce or eliminate pain
  • Improve range of motion
  • Increase circulation
  • Break up scar tissue

Self-Massage Techniques

Self-massage for tennis elbow pain can be a great way to reduce muscle tension and strain from home. Here are a few self-massage techniques for you to try.

  • Thumb Finger Technique

    This technique is intended to work the upper arm muscle called the triceps. This area tends to be a key player in tennis elbow. Start by lifting your affected arm and grabbing the underside of the upper arm with your thumb and finger. Make sure you are grabbing muscle and not only skin. Move the muscle between your thumb and finger massaging until you find a tender spot. When you find a tender spot work on that area, kneading the muscle up to 15 times.

    • Works deep into the muscle tissue
    • Can be done on other areas of the body
    • Releases tension and knots
  • Pressure Motion Technique

    This technique is intended to work on the anconeus muscle. Begin by holding the affected arm in a sling-like position. With the other hand place your finger on the tip of your elbow. Move your finger inward one to two centimeters. Tighten your arm muscles and slightly straighten your elbow. You should feel a small divot in your arm, that is where your anconeus muscle lays. Press your finger into the muscle to massage it.

    • Easy to perform
    • Performed directly on the elbow
    • Great when used before or after stretching

Professional Massage

Sometimes people aren’t able to perform self-massage and need the help of a professional. If you are in this situation you can seek the help of physical therapists or massage therapists. Your choice will likely depend on insurance coverage, availability of the therapist, and their specialty. Whichever route you decide on the therapist will provide tennis elbow treatment through a variety of massage techniques that we will discuss below.


Effleurage is a type of massage that uses the palms of the hands to perform long strokes to warm up the muscles before a deeper massage. It’s used in most traditional, or Swedish massages, and provides an overall sense of relaxation, increased blood circulation, and recovery. The light strokes can help move lymph fluid which deeper massages don’t do.

  • Speeds up the healing process
  • Relaxes tense lower and upper arm muscles
  • Effleurage is incorporated into other massage techniques

Trigger Point Therapy

A trigger point is a tight area in the muscle that causes pain in that same area or another area. If trigger points cause pain in another area that is called referred pain. Used to alleviate the tight muscles and pain with deep pressure on tight muscles.

  • Reduces muscle tension and pain
  • Requires deep constant pressure to the trigger point
  • Needs to be done multiple times to achieve muscle release

Transverse Friction Massage

Similar to a deep tissue massage, transverse friction massage will work the elbow joint through massage of the surrounding muscles and at the site of pain. This technique is a great way to bring back your range of motion after your tendons and muscles are tightened up from the tennis elbow.

  • Uses friction to move fluid in and around tissues
  • Performed with a back and forth motion over the injury site
  • Breaks up scar tissue and increases flexibility

Sports Massage Therapy

Ideally, sports massage is done before or after a workout or sporting event to help restore the body to optimum health. But many athletes and weekend warriors find that it can be beneficial anytime.

  • Promotes relaxation by releasing serotonin
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Not a whole body massage

Myofascial Release

Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles. When fascia becomes tight it can cause muscle pain. Myofascial release works to soften the fascia restoring health to the muscles and reducing pain.

  • Aim is to release the tissue around the muscle
  • Provides pain relief when fascia is released
  • May require multiple therapy sessions to achieve full release

Massage Tools

If you like to perform self-massage then using an elbow massage tool can be indispensable. There are so many different choices that we’ve narrowed it down to a few that we find to be multipurpose and easy to use. Check them out below!

Massage Ball

If you’re trying to push deep into your muscle tissue then a massage ball might be exactly what you need. For tennis elbow, put your massage ball on your upper arm, lower arm, or shoulder muscles. Wedge the ball between you and a wall or another hard surface so that you can slowly move back and forth, pressing deeply into the muscles.

A cold rollerball is a great way to combine massage therapy with hot and cold therapy.


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit blocks pain signals to provide relief to the user. TENS units are popular for many reasons: they’re portable, medication-free, and easy to use. For those who have tennis elbow, this can be a great option to use before an unavoidable painful activity or after you are experiencing pain to give you a little added relief.

Foam Roller

If you have tight muscles and tendons that are making your tennis elbow worse than a foam roller could help you find relief. To use it on your arm or upper body, place the foam roller on the ground and lay on your side with your arm on top of the foam roller. Slowly, move your body up and down to press deeply into the muscle. Some people report that foam rolling sore muscles can cause discomfort, which is normal. However, pain is never normal and you should stop if you are experiencing any.

When and How Often Should you Massage?

Massaging the area after a tennis elbow diagnosis can be done soon after the initial injury period. Since it’s unsafe to massage certain conditions or if blood clots are present, it’s always important to check with your doctor to clear you for massage. Your massage therapist will work with you to help you determine a safe massage schedule. It will likely be multiple times a week to help relax tense muscles.

Safe and Effective Tennis Elbow Massage

Massage can be a safe and effective means to treat tennis elbow. This condition can take many months or longer to heal, therefore be patient with yourself and allow plenty of healing time. Use massage to help speed up healing time, getting you back to the activities you enjoy. As always, talk to your doctor before you start any new treatments, including massage to make sure it’s safe for your situation.




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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