Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow

Overview Of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow involves pain or soreness on the lateral (outside) area of the upper arm near the person’s elbow. As the name implies, this condition is most often seen in those who routinely play tennis. However, it can also happen due to a variety of other causes.

Commonly Associated With

Epitrochlear bursitis, Lateral epicondylitis, and tendinitis

Causes Of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow occurs due to irritation and pain where the person’s tendon attaches to their bone. (Tendons are parts of muscles that attach to bone.) This irritation is caused by repeated use of the muscles in the area, leading to small tears in the tendon over time. Pain and irritation results from these repeated tears not having time to heal fully.

This condition is also often seen in anyone who does a lot of repetitive twisting of their wrist, not just tennis players. Plumbers, painters, butchers, construction workers, and cooks are all more likely to develop tennis elbow. Also, long-term typing and mouse use can lead to the condition.

The most common ages for this problem are between 35 to 55.

Lastly, it is not particularly uncommon for the cause of the condition to be unknown.

Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow

The symptoms of tennis elbow are fairly simple, and can include any of the following:

  • A weak grasp
  • Worsening elbow pain
  • Radiating pain from the outside of the elbow to the back of the hand/forearm that occurs with twisting or grasping motions

Exams & Tests

An exam for tennis elbow will typically reveal specific signs, such as:

  • Pain near the person’s elbow when their wrist is bent backwards against resistance
  • Tenderness or pain when the tendon is directly pressed, especially near where it attaches to the upper arm bone near the outside area of the elbow

However, an MRI of the elbow may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is typically a condition that will resolve on its own, if given time and rest. The first step in treatment is to rest the arm for at least 2-3 weeks, and to either avoid completely or modify the activity that was causing symptoms.

Other treatment options include:

  • NSAID pain relievers, such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin
  • Ice the outside of the elbow 2-3 times daily
  • Cut back on sport activities that may be worsening symptoms
  • Change the equipment used when playing sports, to see if that may be what’s causing the problem
  • If symptoms are due to typing or using a mouse, adding a wrist supporter or a roller mouse could help
  • Exercises to stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles (however, only use physical therapist-approved ones)
  • Applying a counterforce brace to the forearm
  • Injections of cortisone and a numbing medication to the area where the tendon attaches to the bone could help decrease pain and swelling
  • Surgery could be a possibility, but only in rare cases where no other treatments have helped