The Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Treating Tennis Elbow

Woman with elbow pain

Acupuncture May Help Your Tennis Elbow Symptoms

You don't have to play tennis to develop painful lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, a condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow become inflamed. Any activity that involves repeating the same arm movements over and over increases your risk of the condition. Fortunately, acupuncture treatment can reduce pain, inflammation, and other tennis elbow symptoms.

Tennis Elbow Causes and Symptoms

Tendons are bands of tough connective tissue that attach muscles to the bones in a joint. Tennis elbow affects the tendons that connect your forearm muscles to your elbow.

The condition may actually be related to damage of a specific muscle in your forearm, the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). The muscle weakens if it becomes damaged due to overuse. As a result, stress on the tendon increases, which may lead to microscopic tears and inflammation.

If you have tennis elbow, you may experience:

  • Pain or burning on the outside of your elbow
  • Difficulty holding, lifting, or turning objects
  • A decrease in grip strength

Pain may extend to your forearm and wrist and tends to worsen when you use your hand and arm. Although tennis elbow can affect anyone, the condition is most common in people between 30 and 50, according to the AAOS.

You may be at increased risk of developing tennis elbow if you:

  • Play racquet sports
  • Work in a job or participate in an activity that requires repetitive hand movements, such as painting, woodworking, plumbing, or cooking.

Acupuncture Relieves Tennis Elbow Symptoms

Acupuncture offers a natural, drug-free way to ease tennis elbow pain. In fact, several research studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in treating the symptoms of the condition.

Patients in one study received either conventional treatment, such as ice packs and splints, or conventional treatment plus acupuncture. Although everyone in the study reported less pain and better functioning after treatment, only the acupuncture group showed improvements in tendon thickness and pressure pain threshold. Pressure pain threshold refers to how much pressure is applied to an area before you begin to feel pain. The study appeared in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in October 2017.

Health CMI shared information on another tennis elbow study conducted in China that explored the effects of massage combined with acupuncture. Ninety athletes who participated in the study were divided into three treatment groups: acupuncture only, massage only, and acupuncture and massage.

All of the groups reported improvement in tennis elbow symptoms after treatment, but the combination acupuncture/massage group showed the most improvement. Twenty patients in this group no longer had tennis elbow symptoms, while five noted excellent improvement, and an additional five reported moderate improvement.

The Benefits of Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture offers important benefits for tennis elbow, including:

  • Less Inflammation. Acupuncture treatments reduce inflammation and swelling, easing your pain.
  • Improved Blood Circulation. Treatments keep Qi flowing freely. The life force travels throughout your body in a system of meridians and is essential for good health. Acupuncture treatments also increase blood flow, speeding your body's ability to repair itself.
  • Natural Pain Relief. Acupuncture prompts your body to produce endorphins, chemicals that act as natural pain relievers. Treatments may make your brain less sensitive to the pain signals it receives from your elbow. Thanks to your acupuncture treatments, you may be able to take less pain medicine or stop the medication completely.
  • Better Mobility: Decreasing inflammation can also reduce stiffness, making it easier to move your elbow.

Have you been struggling with tennis elbow? Acupuncture treatments can offer lasting relief for your symptoms. If you're tired of living with tennis elbow pain, contact our office to schedule a convenient appointment.


Health CMI: Acupuncture Proven To Heal Tennis Elbow, 6/17/14

UCLA Health: Ask the Doctors – Can Acupuncture Ease the Pain of Tennis Elbow, 8/21/18

British Acupuncture Council: Tennis Elbow

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Tennis Elbow

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Ultrasonographic Evaluation of Acupuncture Effect on Common Extensor Tendon Thickness in Patients with Lateral Epicondylitis: A Randomized Controlled Study, 10/1/17


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