What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is a common name for the elbow condition lateral epicondylitis. It is an overuse injury that causes inflammation and microtears of the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle.
Tennis elbow is a painful condition occurring from repeated muscle contractions at the forearm. The condition is more common in sports activities such as tennis, painting, hammering, typing, gardening and playing musical instruments.
Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are similar, except that golfer’s elbow occurs on the inside of the elbow and tennis elbow occurs on the outside of the elbow. Both conditions are a type of tendonitis – inflammation of the tendons.
The elbow is a joint made up of three bones: the upper arm bone, the humerus, and the two forearm bones, the radius and ulna. The lower end of the humerus has bony bumps called epicondyles that serve as sites of attachment for major tendons and muscles that help in arm movement. The bump on the outside of the elbow is called the lateral epicondyle. It helps in the attachment of the tendons and muscles that help extend your fingers and wrist.
Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
- Elbow pain that gradually worsens
- Pain to the outside of the elbow that radiates to the forearm and wrist with grasping objects
- Weak grip
- Painful grip
- Pain that is exacerbated in the elbow when the wrist is bent back
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Diagnosis of Tennis Elbow
Your doctor will evaluate tennis elbow by reviewing your medical history, performing a thorough physical examination and ordering X-rays, MRI or electromyogram (EMG) to detect any nerve compression.
Treatment of Tennis Elbow
Your physician will recommend conservative treatment options to treat the tennis elbow symptoms. These may include:
- Limit use and rest the arm from activities that worsen symptoms.
- Splints or braces may be ordered to decrease stress on the injured tissues.
- Place ice packs on the elbow to reduce swelling.
- Avoid activities that tend to bring on the symptoms and increase stress on the tendons.
- Anti-inflammatory medications and/or steroid injections may be prescribed to treat pain and swelling.
- Occupational therapy may be ordered for strengthening and stretching exercises to the forearm once your symptoms have decreased.
- Pulsed ultrasound may be applied to increase blood flow and healing to the injured tendons.
Lateral Epicondyle Release Surgery
Risks and Complications of Tennis Elbow
- Allergic reactions to medications
- Blood loss
- Heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, pneumonia or bladder infection
- Nerve damage
- Radial nerve damage, causing numbness, tingling, burning or loss of feeling in the back of the hand and forearm
- Wrist weakness with extension
- Recurrence or failure of relief from symptoms