Physiotherapy For Elbow Pain

Elbow pain is a condition that often presents to Gatley and Heatons Physio Clinics and one which responds extremely well to physiotherapy treatment if treated early enough.

Elbow pain can be caused by many different pathologies. Our physiotherapists are experienced in diagnosing, assessing and treating elbow pain, including identifying the underlying cause of your condition. So, you don’t have to suffer with pain indefinitely, physiotherapy treatment can help.

It starts with an initial consultation which involves a thorough assessment and examination of your elbow pain. We can then recommend appropriate physiotherapy treatment to reduce your pain to get you back to your normal activities and sports.

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Call Gatley on 0161 491 1999 or the Heatons on 0161 432 3232

Our Experienced Physiotherapists Regularly Treat Patients with Elbow Pain at our Clinics in Gatley, Cheadle, Heaton Moor, Stockport and Didsbury

Elbow pain can be caused by a muscle, tendon or ligament in the elbow or can be referred from a ‘trapped nerve’ in the neck. A thorough physiotherapy assessment and examination directs the physio to the structure causing the symptoms which means we can make sure you get the right treatment.

What are the common causes of elbow pain?

The most common causes of elbow pain that we see are tendon injuries (tennis and golfers’ elbow), often due to overuse of the tendons due to taking up a new sport, playing your sport more frequently or if you have changed your technique. Tendon problems can occur gradually without any change in routine – we are more prone to tendon problems as we get older (any age from mid 40s!).

Elbow pain isn’t always caused by a problem in the elbow joint – problems in the neck can cause pain in the elbow and arm, which if associated with pins and needles or numbness in the arm or hand, it may be due to a ‘trapped nerve’ in the neck.

elbow pain physiotherapy

How do I know if I need treatment?

    • If your pain is very severe and is disturbing your function and sleep, you need advice as to how you start to make a recovery.
    • If the pain is less severe but has been present for more than 2 weeks and not improving, it is worth getting your physio to examine it and give you exercises and strategies to continue with to speed up the recovery.
    • If the elbow pain is associated with pain in other areas of the arm, and if you have pins and needles or numbness in the arm or hand, it definitely needs examining by you physio.

Early intervention usually means less treatment is needed to reduce the pain and restore your elbow back to normal.

What will happen if I don’t get it treated?

If you have elbow pain that is stopping you moving and stretching the elbow, the joint can become very stiff. If this happens, it can take a long time to improve the straightening of the arm/ to regain the lost movement.

If you have a Tennis or Golfers elbow, early intervention is recommended to avoid scar tissue developing in the tendon causing the elbow pain to remain for much longer. This can prevent an early return to sport.

The longer you wait for treatment, potentially the more difficult it is to restore full pain free movement to your joints and muscles, so it’s worth seeking physiotherapy attention as soon as possible. And the earlier you seek treatment, the more you can help yourself rather than having to rely on us due to secondary problems setting in.

How long does treatment typically take?

Treatment sessions are for 30 minutes.

Sessions are very likely to include ‘hands on’ treatment in the form of soft tissue massage and joint mobilisations. In addition, your physio will give you an exercise programme to continue with at home to maintain your progress, with advice as to how to best manage your pain.

The number of treatment sessions required depends on how quickly your elbow pain responds to the combination of therapies we use, and any lifestyle changes you make. On average 4-6 sessions for a tendon problem, but it is likely more sessions would be needed if the problem is as a result of trauma, for example causing a fracture.

We will track your progress carefully. It’ is important to fully rehabilitate any injury and discomfort, restore the elbow’s natural range of motion and muscle strength to be fully confident that the condition will not reoccur in the future.

What are the most common elbow problems?

The most common foot and ankle conditions we see at Gatley and Heatons physio clinics are tendon problems including Tennis elbow and Golfer’s elbow.

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)

Tennis elbow, causing pain on the outer side of the elbow, is the most common condition elbow condition we see. Only approximately 5% of people with tennis elbow symptoms play tennis! The muscles which extend the wrist and hand insert by a tendon on the outside of the elbow. It often occurs with repetitive use causing overloading and stress of the tendon causing it to become painful. Any activity that twists and extends the wrist, grips tightly or loads the tendon by lifting too heavy a weight can cause a Tennis elbow, such as digging when gardening, and in sports such as tennis, swimming, squash, weightlifting throwing.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain on the outer side of the elbow when the wrist or hand is extended.
  • Pain if lifting a heavy object such as a kettle.
  • Pain when making a fist or shaking hands.

Physiotherapy treatment includes techniques to reduce pain, strategies for managing your pain during normal day to day activities and sport and strengthening exercises to get you back to activity and sport as soon as possible.

 Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)

Golfer’s elbow is an overuse injury which causes pain over the bony prominence on the inner side of the elbow. The pain can extend down the forearm to the wrist and hand. The pain is made worse by bending (flexing) the wrist or if gripping objects tightly.

Any activity that twists the forearm, flexes the wrist, or grips tightly will cause overload, such as weightlifting and golf.  

Symptoms include:

  • Pain on the inner side of the elbow which can extend along the forearm to wrist and hand.
  • Pain if lifting a heavy object such as a kettle.
  • Stiffness of the elbow.
  • Weakness of grip.

Physiotherapy treatment includes techniques to reduce pain, strategies for managing your pain during normal day to day activities and sport and strengthening exercises to get you back to activity and sport as soon as possible.

Biceps tendon injury

The biceps muscle is a large powerful muscle which flexes your elbow. It starts at the shoulder but inserts at the elbow by a strong tendon. If enough force is put on the tendon, for example a weightlifter doing a clean and jerk, the excessive load can cause the tendon to rupture.

Symptoms include:

  • An immediate popping sensation when lifting.
  • Pain at the front of the elbow.
  • A lump, ‘pop eye sign’ caused by retraction of the biceps muscle causing a bump in the upper arm.
  • Loss of strength when flexing the elbow.

A biceps tendon rupture usually require surgery following which intensive physiotherapy treatment will be required to restore elbow movement and strength to get your arm functionally normally again.

Olecranon fracture

The bony prominence at the back of the elbow (the bone we rest on when leaning on our elbow) is called the Olecranon. It can become fractured (broken) if you fall onto the back of the elbow.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain at the back of the elbow.
  • Swelling and bruising at the back of the elbow which can extend towards the hand.
  • Unable to straighten the elbow.

Type 1 is a simple fracture where the bones are not displaced. Following a period of immobilisation in a sling to reduce pain and swelling, physiotherapy treatment is required to get the elbow moving and to give you exercises to improve the strength of your arm.

Type 2 and 3 fractures usually require surgery following which intensive physiotherapy treatment will be required to restore elbow movement and strength to get your arm functionally normally again.

Olecranon Bursitis

The bursa (sac of fluid) which overlies the bony prominence at the back of the elbow (olecranon) inflames and swells. This occurs due to either acute trauma (such as falling onto the back of the elbow) or repetitive trauma (for example, sitting at your desk at work and leaning on the elbow), or occasionally is due to an infection. It usually affects men between the ages of 30 to 60 years old.

Symptoms include:

  • Swelling (an egg type appearance) at the back of the elbow.
  • There may be pain at the back of the elbow. but it is often pain free unless you bang the back of the elbow.

Physiotherapy treatment is not indicated but your physio may advise you to apply ice to the back of the elbow to reduce the swelling and give you advice and strategies for managing the condition, such as how you sit at the desk. If the swelling is not improving, your physio may contact your GP to discuss a referral to an elbow specialist.

Call Gatley on 0161 491 1999 or the Heatons on 0161 432 3232

How is elbow pain usually treated by a physiotherapist?

There are several ways to treat elbow pain using physiotherapy and your physiotherapist may combine these techniques together for the best outcome.

Research supports a progressive programme of strengthening exercises for tendon problems. We will guide you through the most appropriate way to introduce these and relevant progressions.

Treatment to the neck and shoulder may be included as part of your treatment plan; reduction in neck mobility may contribute to your elbow pain and a lack of shoulder rotation may also play a role in the cause of your elbow pain (especially with a golf swing).  

Rehabilitation rather than surgery or injections is a major part of most elbow treatments.

Some examples of physiotherapy treatments include:

  • Strengthening exercises for all the muscles in the arm, from the shoulder to the wrist.
  • Soft tissue massage.
  • Joint mobilisations.
  • Mobility exercises to regain elbow movements.
  • Core stability exercises
  • Advice for the self-management of your pain.
  • Kinesiology Taping.
  • Sport specific rehabilitation.
hysio for Elbow Pain in Stockport

How will I know if I need an X-Ray or an MRI scan?

Following the assessment, your physiotherapist will advise you of the most appropriate investigation if required. The physiotherapist will liaise with your GP/Consultant if needed.

Will surgery to help my elbow injury be likely?

There are certain elbow problems that are more likely to require surgery:

A displaced fracture will require surgery and immobilisation, following which an intensive rehabilitation programme will be needed.

A rupture of the biceps tendon will require surgery, following which an intensive rehabilitation programme will be needed.

If a Tennis elbow or Golfer’s elbow becomes chronic and is not improving, surgery to release the tendon may be needed.

Your physiotherapist can discuss surgical possibilities with you and advise the best way to gain medical advice.

Is there anything I can do at home to help reduce elbow pain?

  • Avoid painful activities such as lifting, if it causes pain.
  • Use a heat pack over the elbow.
  • Try a brace such as tennis elbow splint.
  • Continue your strengthening and stretching exercises.

Get in touch

Please don’t suffer in pain or discomfort. If you have elbow pain that is severe, that is either not improving or getting worse or you have lost ankle movement, consult us and together we can start your road to recovery.

How To Make an Appointment

We are usually able to offer an appointment time within 24 working hours of your call. 

Please either call the clinic or leave your details in the online enquiry form and we’ll call you back to confirm the arrangements.

Gatley: 0161 491 1999
Heaton Moor: 0161 432 3232

Why Choose Gatley & Heatons Physio?

We provide expert physiotherapy treatments from our clinics in Heaton Moor, Gatley and Didsbury and we regularly help patients from across Stockport and Manchester reduce their pain and return to normal activities.

We frequently work with clients in Cheadle, Bramhall, Poynton, Wilmslow, Northenden, Altrincham, Sale, West Didsbury, Withington, Burnage, Heaton Moor, Heaton Chapel, Heaton Norris, Heaton Mersey and Reddish, and we are regularly able to provide home visits for those who are not able to attend one of our clinics.

We have been established in these areas for many years and have a fantastic relationship with most of the Doctors in these areas. If needed, we will liaise with your Doctor about your condition, for example if medication is needed or a referral to another speciality.

We have an excellent reputation of providing high standards of clinical physiotherapy and a professional service through a trusted, personal and friendly approach.

We offer flexible appointment times to all patients including extended working hours and home visits.

Juan Pardo

Professional and caring treatment received with sound follow up advice. Would recommend to others without hesitation!