Tennis elbow facts
- Tennis elbow is tendinitis of the outer elbow.
- Strain of an elbow tendon causes tennis elbow.
- Risks of tennis elbow include activities that can strain the elbow.
- Tennis elbow symptoms include dull pain and tenderness at the outer elbow often with a sensation of weakness and stiffness.
- A physician uses a patient’s history and physical examination to diagnose tennis elbow.
- The standard treatment for tennis elbow involves measures to reduce the local inflammation.
- The prognosis for tennis elbow is excellent.
- It’s possible to prevent tennis elbow by avoiding activities that strain the elbow.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is a condition that produces severe, burning pain over the bone at the side of the elbow. The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. The pain results from inflammation of the tendon that attaches muscle to the bony projection (called the epicondyle) on the outside of the elbow.
Tennis elbow usually begins with mild pain and can worsen over time. The pain is made worse by pressing on the affected area, or by lifting objects particularly with extension of the wrist. Using a screwdriver can worsen the injury and cause pain. In advanced cases, even simple movements of the elbow joint can produce pain.
While tennis elbow affects up to half of people who participate in racquet sports, most people who develop tennis elbow do not play racquet sports. Work activities that involve the frequent use of the forearm muscles, such as meat cutting, painting, plumbing, or weaving are also associated with the development of tennis elbow. Most people who develop the condition are between the ages of 30 and 50 years, but it can affect people of any age. In most cases, those affected do not notice a particular injury or traumatic event before the condition arises.
Tennis elbow is inflammation of the tendon at the outer portion of the elbow, leading to pain. Classically, tennis elbow is a strain injury to this tendon from hitting a backhand shot at tennis. The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis because it involves inflammation at the insertion point of the tendon at the outer portion of the humerus bone at the elbow joint (the epicondyle). Most people with lateral epicondylitis actually acquire it from activities other than playing tennis.
In contrast, when the tendon that attaches at the inner portion of the elbow is inflamed, the condition is referred to as medial epicondylitis (or “golfer’s elbow” because golfers commonly injure this area after striking the ground to take a deep divot).