Sports Massage Therapy

Can Sports Massage Help Tennis Elbow?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson October 24, 2022
male tennis player on clay court

Sports Massage is known for being able to treat or alleviate an array of conditions, particularly musculoskeletal issues, but how does it fare with tennis elbow? In this article, we take a look at if, and how, massage can help to alleviate the pain associated with tennis elbow, and whether or not it speeds up the healing process.

So, can Sports Massage help tennis elbow? Yes, Sports Massage is very effective for treating tennis elbow, both for relieving pain and speeding up healing - particularly in comparison to simply resting the injury. It is also an effective way of minimising the risk of re-injury.

Read on to learn more about Sports Massage for tennis elbow. 

Massage for Tennis Elbow - Does it Work?

Tennis elbow is a condition that, despite its name, often doesn’t have anything to do with tennis - in fact, for most people that suffer from tennis elbow, the closest they’ve been to a tennis racket since school is the obligatory watching of the Wimbledon final. 

Tennis elbow is actually the term for a condition known clinically as lateral epicondylitis, commonly caused by strenuous overuse of the muscles and tendons in the forearm where the bone anchors to the elbow.

Sports Massage and deep tissue massage are both very effective ways of treating tennis elbow, easing pain and encouraging healing. Typically, tennis elbow will take between 6 months and 2 years to heal via rest alone, however, Sports Massage can help to heal the condition faster than simply resting. 

Tennis elbow massage helps to heal the condition in two ways; firstly, by enhancing circulation which provides oxygen and key nutrients to aid healing. Secondly, the friction involved in massage helps to break down tension in the tendons and scar tissue, releases muscle spasms, improves flexibility and relieves pain. 

Whilst Sports Massage for tennis elbow does work, it is imperative that clients are patient and don’t return to normal activity as soon as the symptoms are relieved. Damaged structures are vulnerable to re-injury and can easily tear before the healing process is complete - typically after a few sessions of Sports Massage alongside cautious exercise which will gradually strengthen the tissues and help to minimise the risk of re-injury. 

What Type of Massage Works Best?

Whilst massage therapy in general should help to relieve tennis elbow to some degree, some types of massage therapy are more effective than others.

Sports Massage for Tennis Elbow

Whether tennis elbow was gained from playing tennis (or another sport) or not, Sports Massage is the best type of massage to treat this condition. Qualified Sports Massage Therapists know what to look for in such conditions, how to treat them without causing further damage, and in a way that minimises the risk of re-injury.

Deep Tissue Massage 

Similar to Sports Massage (but not the same!), deep tissue massage should also prove to be an effective type of massage to treat conditions such as tennis elbow as it uses similar techniques.

Learn more about how Sports Massage and deep tissue massage differs in our blog What is the Difference Between Sports Massage and Deep Tissue Massage? to determine which type of massage is best for your or your client’s condition. 

Tennis Elbow Massage - Self Massage Techniques

Whilst it’s recommended that clients seek out professional help to ensure that their tennis elbow heals well, there are some self-massage techniques that may help to alleviate any pain and discomfort in between appointments. These include:

Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

To ensure that a condition is treated effectively, it’s important that you know what you’re treating as some conditions are easily mistaken for others which require different treatment methods. 

The main symptom of tennis elbow is pain, however this can present in slightly different places for some people. Pain will typically present on the outside of the affected elbow for most, but some people may also experience pain in the forearm and in the back of the hand. Some may also experience pain when gripping items (such as a pen or racket handle), and when twisting the forearm (such as turning a door handle or when opening a jar). 

Finally, sufferers may experience general stiffness when fully extending the arm, and may find that such stiffness is more apparent in the morning after several hours of unuse. Typically, this will alleviate as the day progresses and the muscle warms up.

How Many Sports Massage Appointments are Needed for Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow will typically heal on its own within 6 months to 2 years when allowed to rest, however Sports Massage can help to heal the condition faster whilst also minimising the risk of re-injury. In most circumstances, a few sessions of Sports Massage are required to encourage healing, alongside a regimen of gentle exercises to the affected area.

That being said, as a rule of thumb, it is recommended that clients receive weekly or twice-monthly Sports Massage sessions as a minimum to resolve their concern. Learn more about how often clients should have Sports Massage sessions based on their individual needs in our recent blog

Final Thoughts

Massage for tennis elbow is thought to be an effective treatment, and may also speed up the healing time compared with simply allowing the affected area to rest. However, Sports Massage and deep tissue massage appear to be the most effective type of massage for tennis elbow, and it is recommended that clients are seen by a professional Sports Massage Therapist to ensure that the condition is treated properly as improper technique could make the condition worse. 

Breeze Academy offers a number of Sports Massage Therapy courses for those wishing to train in Sports Massage and effectively treat conditions such as tennis elbow. Our courses contain everything you need to safely and competently and provide massage. Take a look at our Level 3 and Level 4 courses today or, if you have prior experience in Physiotherapy or Sports Rehabilitation (including students that have completed at least one year of relevant study), take a look at our Direct to Level 4 course.

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