Do you have pain along the outer part of your elbow or forearm? Does it hurt to pick up your groceries or a heavy load of laundry? You might have tennis elbow.  You might be surprised to learn that tennis elbow doesn't only affect people who play tennis! Tennis elbow is the everyday name for a condition that professionals in the world of physical medicine call lateral epicondylitis, lateral epicondylalgia, or lateral epicondylopathy. When you have this issue, you might feel pain, discomfort, weakness, swelling, or inflammation around the outer part of your elbow. In this article, we'll focus on dry needling as a treatment for tennis elbow and how it can help you.

Key Takeaways

  • Dry needling involves the insertion of fine needles into muscles and ligaments, promoting blood flow and facilitating the healing process.
  • This treatment can provide relief from tennis elbow pain and improve grip function.
  • It's essential to consult with a professional to ensure the appropriate treatment plan is tailored to your needs.
  • Combining dry needling with other treatments, like corrective exercises, may provide even better results.
  • Preventive measures, self-care routines, and follow-up appointments can help minimize the risk of tennis elbow recurrence in the future.

Understanding Tennis Elbow Pain

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition affecting the tendons connecting the forearm muscles to the lateral epicondyle – the bony bump on the outer side of the elbow. It is caused by:  

  • Repetitive motion 
  • Overuse
  • Degeneration of the tendon

As you can see, these chronic irritations build up over time. It's rarely a single activity that causes tennis elbow. The primary symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Elbow pain
  • Weak grip
  • Forearm discomfort

What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique that involves the insertion of a thin, sterile needle into the muscle to alleviate pain and promote healing. It is often compared to acupuncture, but the focus of dry needling differs. It targets tight muscle knots that can contribute to pain and dysfunction.

How Dry Needling Works

The process of dry needling involves the insertion of fine needles into specific areas of the muscles and tendons. This can:

  1. Improve blood flow to the area
  2. Release tight muscles
  3. Promote the healing process by stimulating the body's natural repair mechanisms 

In chronic pain (I.E., chronic tennis elbow), the dry needling creates a new irritation that can jump-start healing in the treated tissue. 

Dry Needling as an Effective Treatment for Tennis Elbow

Dry needling has several benefits for tennis elbow patients, such as:

  1. Reducing pain and inflammation in the affected elbow and forearm
  2. Restoring muscle strength and grip function
  3. Accelerating the healing process  

Compared to other treatment options like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections, dry needling can offer a more targeted and natural approach to addressing the underlying causes of tennis elbow pain.

What to Expect During a Dry Needling Treatment for Tennis Elbow

If you're considering dry needling for tennis elbow, here's what you can expect during the treatment process:  

  1. Discuss your medical history and symptoms with your clinician before treatment.
  2. Relax on the treatment table while the clinician locates the sensitive area and gently inserts the needles.
  3. Experience minimal discomfort, if any, as the needles target the affected muscles.
  4. Begin to feel relief from pain and discomfort as the treatment progresses.
  5. Participate in aftercare and follow-up appointments with your clinician to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments. 

Risks and Limitations of Dry Needling for Tennis Elbow

As with any treatment, there are some potential risks, contraindications, and limitations associated with dry needling, including: 

  1. Potential side effects, such as minor bleeding, bruising, or temporary muscle soreness
  2. Precautions must be taken for people with certain medical conditions, pregnant women, or individuals taking blood-thinning medications.
  3. The treatment may only be effective for some, and individual results may vary. 

Combining Dry Needling with Other Treatment Options

Incorporating a multidisciplinary treatment approach can provide even better results for tennis elbow recovery. This may involve:

  1. Corrective exercises to strengthen and stretch the forearm muscles and improve grip function
  2. Ergonomic modifications to reduce strain on the affected muscles during daily activities 

Preventing Tennis Elbow Recurrence

To minimize the risk of tennis elbow coming back, it is important to identify triggers and risk factors and implement preventive measures, such as:

  1. Maintaining healthy forearm and grip strength through regular exercises 
  2. Using proper technique and equipment during sports or activities that involve repetitive forearm movements
  3. Taking frequent breaks and avoiding overuse of the forearm muscles
  4. Continuing self-care routines and attending follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider


By exploring various treatment options and focusing on prevention, you can take control of your recovery journey and get back to enjoying your daily activities and hobbies without the pain and discomfort caused by tennis elbow. Remember, you should work closely with your healthcare provider to tailor a personalized treatment plan that meets your needs and goals. Dry needling, combined with other therapies, has the potential to provide lasting relief and prevent future occurrences of this frustrating condition. So, don't hesitate to contact a professional and explore the benefits of dry needling for tennis elbow today!   

Byron  Lam

Byron Lam

Chiropractor, CCSP®, FR® Spine

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