Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is an inflammation, soreness or tenderness to the muscles or tendons on the outside portion (lateral aspect) of your elbow, usually resulting from overuse or repetitive stress.

Causes

Commonly called tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis results from repetitive movements of your wrist and forearm. The condition is usually associated with playing tennis, where it gets its name. Amateur tennis players are the ones who experience the condition the most probably because of poor backhand or ball-serving techniques or insufficient grip size of the racket.

It should be noted, however, that tennis elbow is not limited to players only. Any activity that involves repetitive twisting of the wrist, such as hammering, using a screwdriver or shaking hands excessively can cause the condition.

Area affected by Lateral
Epicondylitis (R).
Credit: NIAMS

The most commonly injured muscle in tennis elbow is the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) that is located at the back of the forearm, which has an attachment on the arm bone (humerus) near the elbow.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
  • Pain near the elbow
  • Forearm muscle weakness
  • Tenderness when muscle tendon is gently pressed on its attachment near the elbow
  • Difficulty of gripping or grasping objects

What You Can Do Immediately

Apply a cold pack wrapped in towel over your injured muscle or elbow for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This will help relieve your pain from tennis elbow and helps reduce swelling. Avoid applying ice for more than 20 minutes as this can cause frostbite.
If your pain is so severe or you are unsure of the severity of your injury, you should consult your healthcare provider.

Physical Therapy Treatment Options for Tennis Elbow
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Page Last Revised: April 17, 2011