What is Tennis 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 require repetitive motions that can lead to tennis elbow include plumbers, painters, carpenters, and butchers.
What are the symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
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.
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, to turn a doorknob, or even hold a cup.
What causes Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is an overuse and muscle strain injury. The cause is repeated overuse 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.
There are many other common arm motions can cause tennis elbow, as well:
Using plumbing tools
- Driving screws
- Cutting up cooking ingredients, particularly meat
- Repetitive computer mouse use
How is Tennis Elbow diagnosed?
During a physical exam, your doctor may apply pressure to the affected area or ask you to move your elbow, wrist, and fingers in various ways.
In many cases, your medical history and the physical exam provide enough information for your doctor to make a diagnosis of tennis elbow. But if your doctor suspects that something else may be causing your symptoms, he or she may suggest X-rays or other types of imaging tests.
What is the treatment for Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow often gets better on its own with rest. But if over-the-counter pain medications and other self-care measures aren't helping, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. Severe cases of tennis elbow may require surgery.
If your symptoms haven't improved, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove damaged tissue.