Learn About Ailments | Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury of the arm and forearm resulting in elbow pain. Muscles in the forearm that extend the wrist are attached at the elbow. Repetitive twisting, gripping and untwisting movements of the wrist can cause pain and tenderness over the outside point of the elbow.
Tennis Elbow

In This Article
Did you know? Causes of tennis elbow
Symptoms of tennis elbow Diagnosis of tennis elbow
Related terms

  • 2 in 100 people have tennis elbow
  • Only 5 in 1,000 people seek medical help for tennis elbow
  • Tennis elbow is most common in people aged 30-50 years-old

Tennis elbow, known medically as lateral epicondylitis, is caused by overstraining the muscles.  Repetitive or excessive movement of the muscles that straighten the wrist can injure the tendons in the arm and elbow. This results in small tears in the tendon that become inflamed causing pain.

As the injured area becomes inflamed, the tendon cuts of circulation and pinches the nerve that controls the muscles in the arm and hand. If the injury is not treated properly, rough tissue can begin to form.

Activities that cause tennis elbow include:
  • racquet sports (tennis, squash)
  • golf
  • throwing
  • swimming
  • typing
  • gardening
  • using scissors
  • manual labour

The common symptom of tennis elbow is pain on the outside of the elbow which may radiate down to the forearm. Pain is usually experienced when using the arm and elbow particularly with twisting movements.

As damage to the tendons worsens, the arm can become stiff and weak leading to complications in the shoulder and neck as the body tries to compensate. Pain can last for 6-12 weeks and if left untreated the elbow joint can feel uncomfortable for many years.

If you are experiencing elbow pain it's important to visit your GP early to prevent long-term problems with pain. The GP will perform a physical examination of the arm checking for pain by placing pressure on the elbow and bending your hand upwards.

If the GP suspects an underlying condition that may be causing the problem you may be sent for an X-ray to rule out injury or arthritis.

To rule out nerve damage, or if your tennis elbow is severe and chronic, the GP may refer you for an MRI scan or ultrasound to get a detailed picture of the muscles and tendons in the arm.

Elbow pain
Wrist pain
Sports injury
Anti-inflammatory drugs
Lateral epicondyle

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