Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow

What is tennis elbow ?

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse. Not surprisingly, playing tennis or other racquet sports can cause this condition. However, several other sports and activities besides sports can also put you at risk.

Tennis elbow is inflammation or, in some cases, micro tearing of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from overuse — repeating the same motions again and again. This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm.

Despite its name, athletes aren't the only people who develop tennis elbow. People whose jobs feature the types of motions that can lead to tennis elbow include plumbers, painters, carpenters and butchers.

The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow. Pain can also spread into your forearm and wrist.

Rest and over-the-counter pain relievers often help relieve tennis elbow. If conservative treatments don't help or if symptoms are disabling, your doctor might suggest surgery.


The pain associated with tennis elbow may radiate from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist. Pain and weakness may make it difficult to:

  • Shake hands or grip an object
  • Turn a doorknob
  • Hold a coffee cup


Tennis elbow is an overuse and muscle strain injury. The cause is repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. The repeated motions and stress to the tissue may result in a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of your elbow.

As the name suggests, playing tennis — especially repeated use of the backhand stroke with poor technique — is one possible cause of tennis elbow. However, many other common arm motions can cause tennis elbow, including:

  • Using plumbing tools
  • Painting
  • Driving screws
  • Cutting up cooking ingredients, particularly meat
  • Repetitive computer mouse use

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of tennis elbow include:

  • Age. While tennis elbow affects people of all ages, it's most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Occupation. People who have jobs that involve repetitive motions of the wrist and arm are more likely to develop tennis elbow. Examples include plumbers, painters, carpenters, butchers and cooks.
  • Certain sports. Participating in racket sports increases your risk of tennis elbow, especially if you employ poor stroke technique.


Tennis elbow management involves both nonsurgical and surgical methods. Approximately, 80-95% of patients have success with nonsurgical treatment.

  • Resting your arm is of utmost importance because it heals the inflammation and pain. Avoiding heavy activities and decreased participation in sports for some time can help in relieving painful symptoms.
  • Using ice to foment the elbows immediately as the pain starts is a good way to stop swelling from increasing.
  • Medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (ibuprofen) may ease swelling and pain.
  • Steroids such as cortisone alleviate inflammation. The physician may inject steroids around the bony area to relieve painful symptoms.
  • Specific exercises may help to strengthen the muscles of the forearms. Ice-massage or muscle-stimulating techniques may aid in improving muscle healing.
  • Physicians may recommend the usage of a brace to relax the muscles and tendons, thus relieving the symptoms of a tennis elbow.
  • Physicians may consider injecting platelet-rich plasma to improve the biologic environment of the tissue. A small sample of blood is collected from the arm and centrifuged to obtain platelets from the solution. This therapy is still under consideration because there are studies that either defend or oppose the effectiveness of this therapy.
  • Shock wave therapy sends sound waves to the elbows to create microtrauma that promotes the body’s natural healing process.