What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is one of several overuse injuries that can affect your
elbow. Other similar conditions include golfer's elbow and Little League
elbow — but they involve a different part of your elbow.
The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your
forearm muscles attach to the bony prominence on the outside of your elbow
(lateral epicondyle). Pain can also spread (radiate) into your forearm and
wrist. Another name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. The
bony spot where pain occurs is near the lower end of the humerus, the bone
that connects your shoulder to your forearm at the elbow.
By contrast, both the pain of golfer's elbow and the pain of Little
League elbow occur at the bony prominence on the inside of your elbow
(medial epicondyle). These conditions also go by the name medial
Although playing tennis is one cause of tennis elbow, many other common
activities can cause the condition. Treatments commonly involve rest and
use of anti-inflammatory medications. Rarely, surgery is an option.
Signs and symptoms of tennis elbow
- Pain that radiates from the outside of your elbow into your forearm
- Pain when you touch or bump the outside of your elbow
- A weak grip
- A painful grip, such as when you shake hands or grip a doorknob
- Pain when you straighten or extend your wrist or hand
- Pain in your elbow when lifting something heavy
- Pain during repetitive movements of your wrist
Sometimes, you may feel pain even when you aren't moving your arm.
What are the causes of Tennis Elbow ?
Often tennis elbow is caused by repeated strain on the muscles of the
forearm that extend the wrist and fingers. Activities such as playing
tennis, golf, or repeated twisting or extension of the wrist during work
or hobby activities, may strain these muscles.
In rare instances, a direct blow to the elbow may cause this condition.
The inflammation comes on without any definite cause, and this may be due
to an arthritis, rheumatism or gout.
Other causes may include a pinched nerve in the neck, referred pain
from a shoulder problem, or pressure on the radial nerve in the region of
the elbow which is called radial tunnel syndrome.
Furthermore, quite a wide range of common arm
motions can result in tennis elbow. These activities may include:
- Using a screwdriver
- Carrying heavy weights, such as a suitcase
- Motions used in gardening, such as pulling weeds
How is Tennis Elbow Diagnosed?
Examination of the effected elbow will usually reveal tenderness and
discomfort when pressure is applied to this area.
X-ray may help to determine the problem.
The doctor may also examine your neck, as this may be the cause, or part
of the problem
Initial treatment of tennis elbow usually involves self-care steps
including rest, icing the area and use of acetaminophen or
over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications. If those steps don't
help and you still have pain and limited motion after a week or so, your
doctor may suggest other steps. These may include:
- Analyzing your arm motions. Your doctor may
suggest that experts evaluate your tennis technique or job tasks to
determine the best steps to reduce 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 the way you use your wrist and forearm
doesn't continue to contribute to your symptoms.
- Prescription medications. If your use of OTC
medications hasn't reduced pain and inflammation, your doctor may
prescribe stronger medications for a short period of time.
- Exercises. Your doctor — or physical
therapist to whom you've been referred by your doctor — may suggest
exercises to gradually stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially
the muscles of your forearm. Once you've learned these exercises, you
can do them at home or at work. Your doctor may also suggest you wear
straps or braces to reduce stress on the injured tissue.
Magnetic Therapy. The application of static high strength magnets at
the point of pain will reduce inflammation, swelling and therefore pain.
Magnets should be worn over a 3-4 weeks period.
- Corticosteroids. If your pain is severe and
persistent, your doctor may suggest an injection of a corticosteroid
medication. Corticosteroids are drugs that help to reduce pain, swelling
and inflammation. Injectable corticosteroids rarely cause serious side
effects, although they may temporarily raise blood sugar levels in
people with diabetes. Your doctor may also suggest use of topical corticosteroids for pain
relief. These corticosteroids are absorbed through your skin.
- Surgery.If other approaches haven't
relieved your pain, if you've been faithful with your rehabilitation
program and given it enough time, and if the activity of your arm is
still restricted, your doctor may suggest surgery. You'll be able to
have the surgery done on an outpatient basis, meaning you can go home
the same day. Surgery involves either trimming the inflamed tendon, or
surgically releasing and then re-attaching the tendon to relieve pain.
Prevention of tennis elbow:
Lift objects with your palm facing the body.
Practice strengthening exercises with hand
Acupuncture is also known to reduce pain of tennis