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What is Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a painful condition that happens when tendons in your elbow are over-stressed, commonly by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. Tennis elbow can result from very poor form in performing a tennis backhand swing. But, many jobs also require recurring wrist and arm motions which could cause tennis elbow.

The agony of tennis elbow usually occurs where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony prominence on the outside of your elbow. Discomfort can also spread into your forearm as well as wrist.

Rest, over-the-counter pain relievers and phototherapy often help soothe tennis elbow. If conservative cures don't help or perhaps if symptoms are disabling, your physician may suggest medical procedures.


The pain linked to tennis elbow may expand from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist. Pain and weakness may make it difficult to:
Shake hands
Shift car gears
Turn a doorknob
Hold a coffee cup

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is usually an overuse and muscle strain injury. The cause is recurring contraction of the forearm muscles that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. The repetitive movements and stress to the tissue may result in inflammation or a series of small tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of your elbow (lateral epicondyle).

As the name implies, playing tennis - particularly repeated use of the backhand stroke with minimal practice - is a probable cause of tennis elbow. On the other hand, many other typical arm actions may cause tennis elbow, such as:
Using plumbing equipment
Driving screws
Chopping up cooking ingredients, particularly meat
Too much computer mouse use

Risk Factors

Aspects that may increase your chance of tennis elbow include:

Age. Although tennis elbow affects individuals of all ages, it's most typical in adults between the ages of thirty and fifty.

Career. Those who have tasks that involve repeating activities of the wrist and arm will probably acquire tennis elbow. Examples include plumbers, artists, carpenters, butchers and chefs.

Specific sports. Playing racket sports raises your risk of tennis elbow, especially if you employ bad stroke practice.


Left untreated, tennis elbow can result in severe pain -especially when  straining or gripping things. Using your arm too strenuously before your tennis elbow  has recovered will make the problem even worse.

When should you see a doctor?

Talk to your doctor if self-care procedures like rest, ice and use of over-the-counter pain relievers or at home medical devices don't alleviate your elbow pain and tenderness.

Get yourself ready for your appointment

You are likely to first bring your problem to the attention of your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a athletics medicine expert or an orthopedic surgeon.

What you can do

Prior to your consultation, you should write a list that answers the following questions:
When did the symptoms begin?
Does any motion or activity make the problems better or worse?
Have you recently seriously injured your elbow?
Do you have rheumatoid arthritis or a nerve ailment?
Does your job require repeated routines of your wrist or arm?
Do you play sports? If so, what kinds of sports do you play and has your technique ever been looked at?
What medicinal drugs or supplements do you take?

What you should expect from your physician

During the physical assessment, your doctor may apply pressure to the affected area or request you to move your elbow, wrist and fingers in various ways.

Examination and Prognosis

Quite often, your health background and physical assessment provides ample data for your physician to make a diagnosis of tennis elbow. But if your doctor suspects that something else may be causing your symptoms, he or she may propose:

X-rays. An X-ray will help your doctor eliminate other possible factors that cause elbow pain, such as a fracture or arthritis.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Problems in your neck can sometimes trigger symptoms similar to tennis elbow. MRI machines use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce thorough images of bones and soft tissues.

Electromyography (EMG). This type of examination can check to see if your symptoms are associated with a pinched nerve. During an EMG, fine wires are inserted into a muscle to assess electrical changes that occur when the muscle moves.

Treatment and Drugs

Tennis elbow often gets better alone. But if over-the-counter pain medications, use of phototherapy devices and other self-care procedures are not helping, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. Extreme instances of tennis elbow may need surgical procedure.


Learn proper form. Your physician may suggest that specialists evaluate your tennis method or job tasks to determine the best actions to minimize stress on your injured tissue. This may mean going to a two-handed backhand in tennis or taking ergonomic steps at work to ensure that your wrist and forearm movements don't continue to contribute to your symptoms.

Exercises. Your doctor or a physical therapist may suggest work outs to progressively stretch and improve your muscles, particularly the muscles of your forearm.

Braces. Your doctor can also recommend you wear a forearm strap or brace to relieve stress on the injured tissue.


If your symptoms haven't improved after at least a year of considerable conservative treatments, you might be a candidate for operation to remove broken tissue. These types of procedures can be carried out via a large incision or through a number of small incisions. Rehabilitation exercises are crucial to recovery.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Follow the guidelines for R.I.C.E. - rest, ice, compression, elevation:

Rest. Allow your elbow a rest. But do not avoid all activity. Sometimes, putting on a forearm splint at night helps decrease morning symptoms.

Ice. Use a cold pack, ice massage, slush bath or compression sleeve filled with cold water to limit inflammation after an injury. Consider applying ice as soon as possible after the injury.

Compression. Make use of an flexible wrap or bandage to compress the injured area.

Elevation. Maintain your elbow above heart level when possible to help stop or restrict swelling.

Over-the-counter pain killers and medical devices may also be helpful.

The R.I.C.E. method is often combined with anti-inflammatory medication and / or phototherapy for optimal results.

It is often best to include multiple treatment approaches as they often have synergistic benefits that optimize recovery.  Conversely, overdoing one thing whether it be physical therapy or medication, can have negative effects.