Current Physiotherapy Practice in the Management of Tennis Elbow

Purpose

Tennis elbow is a common painful condition that may affect daily function and ability to work. Physiotherapy is the most commonly used primary intervention but there is a wide range of treatment options within the umbrella of physiotherapy. Our aim was to report which treatments are currently used by physiotherapists in a UK National Health Service setting.

Approach

A retrospective service evaluation was conducted at two NHS hospital trusts by reviewing patient attendance records over a one year period. All patients with tennis elbow were included, except those referred for post-operative rehabilitation. Patient notes were analysed using a pre-defined assessment template.

Outcomes

65 patient records were identified with mean age 48 years and mean symptom duration of 5.4 months. Mean treatment duration was 64 days over 3.7 sessions. The most commonly used treatments were education and exercise however the type and dosing of exercise varied greatly. Passive modalities lacking evidence for efficacy, such as ice, taping, manual therapy, acupuncture and electrotherapy, were still used.

Wide variations in treatment approaches were identified. There was no consistency in either the choice of modality used, the type of exercise or the dose of exercise prescribed. The use of passive modalities and corticosteroid injections remains commonplace despite a lack of supportive research evidence.

Implications

There is a clear need for evidence-based guidance for physiotherapists treating patients with tennis elbow to ensure a consistent approach that is most likely to benefit patients.

Fund acknowledgements

This work was not funded.

Additional notes

Presented at Physiotherapy UK 2018.