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Research has shown that physical therapy can help people with tennis elbow improve their pain and function. A new study provides yet another reason to choose or recommend physical therapy over steroids for tennis elbow — the overall value it delivers.

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury caused by activities that require repeated gripping. Despite its name, only 10% of those with tennis elbow play tennis. It is most common in adults over age 40.

Choosing physical therapy to treat tennis elbow outperforms steroid injections. In addition to saving health care dollars, physical therapy helps patients to:

  • Reduce short-term pain and healing time.
  • Increase grip strength and flexibility.
  • Avoid complications from invasive procedures such as surgery and injections.
  • Improve blood flow and minimize the risk of recurrence.
  • Avoid potential side effects and overuse of topical and oral over-the-counter medications.

You do not need a physician's referral* to see a physical therapist in the United States. Visit Find a PT to search for a physical therapist in your area. 

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Learn more about physical therapist treatment in the Physical Therapy Guide to Tennis Elbow.

Graphic illustration of the tennis elbow findings from the Economic Value of Physical Therapy Report

Researchers calculated the economic impact of choosing physical therapy for tennis elbow over steroid injections. They found that doing so saves $10,739, including all the hidden costs of your time, pain, missed life events, and the dollars paid for services. This graphic summarizes their analysis, outlined in an easy-to-read paper covering this and seven other conditions.

Health care dollars are finite. This research can help to influence policies that better enable patient access to treatment options. It also may lead to health plan coverage that is both clinically effective and value-based. Patients and the health care system benefit when our health care dollars go further.

Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. 

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*Your insurance policy, corporate policies, or state practice laws may still require a referral. Some states may limit the type or duration of treatment without a referral.


View additional Did You Know? articles on all eight conditions on our Value of Physical Therapy page.


Additional Resources

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The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States, a report from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Kim YJ, Wood SM, Yoon AP, et al. Efficacy of nonoperative treatments for lateral epicondylitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2021;147(1):112–125. Article Summary in PubMed.

Landesa-Martínez L, Leirós-Rodríguez R. Physiotherapy treatment of lateral epicondylitis: a systematic review. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2021 August 4. Article Summary on PubMed

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