Anyone for Tennis? But Watch Out for Tennis Elbow!

Anyone for Tennis? But Watch Out for Tennis Elbow!

Summer is here, and that means grass tennis! If you like to participate in the game as much as watching it then you may have suffered from a common injury, aptly named, Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis to be exact). Acupuncture combined with massage is an extremely effective treatment and research shows that acupuncture also alleviates symptoms in patients with plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee and lumbar pain. Laura Ichajapanich, acupuncturist, tuina medical massage practitioner and tai chi & qigong instructor explains how Chinese medicine and exercise not only helps to relieve pain but also, is vital in health maintenance. 

“Sports and exercise have always been an integral part of my life. I had a very athletic childhood, playing tennis, netball, basketball, hockey and athletics at school. In my late 20s I started tai chi as my knees were suffering as a result of a skiing accident and being too competitive on the squash court. I am convinced that this has helped me retain fitness and remain injury free and I now enjoy training for triathlons and half marathons.

“In Chinese medicine yang sheng or health preservation/nourishing life is a key component of health. So whether I'm talking to my teenage nieces who play volleyball for England or my 60-year-old patients who are suffering from IBS, anxiety or depression, I will always recommend an exercise and dietary plan. In terms of exercise remember to:

  • Start slowly and build up (i.e. follow a ‘couch potato to 5k’ app if you're new to running)
  • Always stretch before and after (I use a great Japanese technique called Sotai – see Natalie Koffman shiatsu practitioner at Belsize Health for more info)
  • Be sports specific - gentle movements using the same muscle groups as you will employ in the sport or exercise
  • Stay warm – warm up before stretching to avoid muscle tear
  • Work to your limit and not beyond – true for tai chi or triathlons

“An injury that I often see in my clinic is Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), a form of tendinitis. Symptoms are usually pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, forearm and in the back of the hand. Repetitive motions often lead to lateral epicondylitis such as movement during tennis, weight lifting, painting, typing, knitting and woodwork. The pain typically worsens when lifting, gripping, twisting and straightening the wrist.

“Conventional medical approaches for treating lateral epicondylitis include physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), icing, bracing, local steroid injections and surgery.


“Acupuncture and TCM tuina massage have a historical record dating back over 1000 years. A recent scientific experiment using a carefully controlled investigation for examining the efficacy of these ancient modalities confirms the historical record.

“The combination group received acupuncture treatment after being massaged on the same day. Each treatment modality was applied once daily for all groups. One course of either massage and/or acupuncture consisted of 10 days. There was a two-day pause following the first course. The entire treatment was 2 courses for a total of 20 treatments. The group that received both acupuncture and TCM massage showed the greatest clinical improvements. A total of 20 patients in the combination group were completely cured after the 20 treatments. Another 5 patients made excellent improvement and an additional 5 patients made moderate improvement. One patient in the combination group made no improvement. Occasionally, patients felt uncomfortable after the acupuncture needling for approximately one day, however, the soreness disappeared after one day’s rest.

“Based on the results, the researchers conclude that acupuncture and massage are effective in treating lateral epicondylitis for athletes and that combining the therapies increases positive patient outcomes.?

There is also positive evidence from individual randomised controlled trials, showing that:

  • Acupuncture reduced pain in patients with plantar fasciitis (Zhang 2001);
  • Electroacupuncture had better therapeutic effects than medication, both in the short and long term, in patients with acute lumbar strain (Yao-chi 2007);
  • Acupuncture plus warmed needle relieved the pain of chondromalacia patella (Qui 2006);
  • Acupuncture reduced NSAID intake and relieved pain in patients with shin splints (Callison 2002);
  • Acupuncture reduced the pain of patellofemoral pain syndromes (Jensen 1999);
  • Acupuncture was effective for soft tissue disease (Yuan 1989) (2)

“However, acupuncture is not a miracle cure or quick fix. All these studies were based on a course of treatments. I always advise my patients to invest in their health by working on themselves through diet and exercise and to consider acupuncture and tuina massage to be part of the whole picture of health with monthly or seasonal treatments to maintain balance and wellbeing.”

Laura Ichajapanich (MSc, Dip (Tuina), PGCE, BA (Hons) MBAcC)

Laura Ichajapanich has a Masters degree in Chinese Medicine and specialises in Acupuncture for musculoskeletal problems, pain relief, stress, anxiety, and gynaecological problems - as well as symptoms associated with cancer and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. She has been teaching tai chi for over 16 years.

To book a one-to-one session with Laura call 020 7483 2345 or email

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