What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, known medically as lateral epicondylitis, is a pain focused on the outside of the arm, where your forearm connects with your elbow. Common injury that will usually heal with minor treatment, but you have to give it time and rest.

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Most people diagnosed with tennis elbow did not actually get it from playing tennis.

Tennis elbow pain is related to a muscle and tendons in your forearm. Tendons connect your muscles to your bones. When you constantly use your arm in a repetitive motion, the tendons at the elbow end of a certain muscle – the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle may develop small tears. The tears can be quite painful and could lead to inflammation, thereby mounting stress on the rest of your arm, making it painful to lift and grip things.

Tennis elbow can become chronic if left untreated. Tennis elbow affects up to 3% of the population, particularly adults between 30 and 50 years of age. But less than 5% of cases are linked to tennis.

Causes of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a typical repetitive stress injury caused by overuse. Tennis elbow can be caused by any activity that put strains on the muscles around the elbow over and over again.

There’s also a version golfers get called “golfer’s elbow.”

In tennis, hitting a backhand puts some stress on your forearm muscles, which contracts repeatedly when you strike the ball. If you have poor technique or grip the racquet too tightly, that stress may increase in the tendons that links the forearm muscles to the elbow, this may cause small tears on the tendons.

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Since tennis is a game of repeated strokes, a person has greater chance of developing tennis elbow. You can get it from other racquet sports, such as squash or racquetball. You can also get it from jobs or activities that involve repetitive arm motion, such as:

  • Painting
  • Tree-cutting (repetitive use of a chain saw)
  • Playing some types of musical instruments
  • Carpentry

People who can also develop tennis elbow include assembly-line workers, cooks, and butchers.

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Golfer’s elbow is different from tennis elbow in that the pain is focused on the inside of the elbow. However, the causes are similar in both cases because tendon tears are caused by repetitive movement.

Symptoms of Tennis elbow

The most common symptom of tennis elbow is an ache on the outside of the elbow. The ache can become a chronic pain overtime in a few weeks to a few months. The outside of your elbow may become too painful to touch. Eventually, you may find it more painful to grip or lift things, both hands may be affected in some cases.


Your doctor may ask you to perform some simple activities to check whether you have tennis elbow. These include straightening your wrist against pressure and checking for pain in parts of your arm. He may also order an MRI scan for you.

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Tennis elbow can usually be treated with:

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin

Discuss with your doctor if you have constant pain and think you may need to take pain relievers for a prolonged time.


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