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What is Tennis Elbow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition that affects individuals, not just tennis players. Despite its name, tennis elbow can occur in anyone who repeatedly uses their forearm muscles, leading to inflammation and pain. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for tennis elbow is crucial for effective management and recovery.

Causes of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is typically caused by repetitive motions and overuse of the forearm muscles that attach to the outside of the elbow. While playing tennis can contribute to the development of this condition, it can also be caused by other activities, such as painting, gardening, typing, or using hand tools. The repetitive motions involved in these activities can strain the tendons and lead to micro-tears, resulting in inflammation and pain.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

The primary symptom of tennis elbow is pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow. This pain may radiate down the forearm and worsen with activities that involve gripping or lifting objects. Other common symptoms include:

1. Weak grip strength: Difficulty in gripping objects or performing simple tasks like shaking hands or turning a doorknob.

2. Pain during wrist movements: Pain may be felt when extending or flexing the wrist, such as when picking up a cup or using a computer mouse.

3. Stiffness: The elbow may feel stiff, making it challenging to fully straighten or bend the arm.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect you have tennis elbow, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. They will assess your symptoms, conduct a physical examination, and may order imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI to rule out other conditions.

Treatment options for tennis elbow focus on reducing pain, promoting healing, and preventing further damage. These may include:

1. Rest and activity modification: Avoid activities that aggravate the symptoms and allow the affected tendons to rest and heal.

2. Ice and heat therapy: Applying ice packs or using a warm compress can help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.

3. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can guide you through exercises to stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles, improving flexibility and reducing strain on the tendons.

4. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

5. Bracing or splinting: Wearing a brace or splint around the forearm can provide support and reduce stress on the affected tendons.

6. Corticosteroid injections: In severe cases, a healthcare professional may administer corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

7. Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT): This non-invasive treatment involves directing shockwaves to the affected area to stimulate healing and reduce pain.

In rare cases where conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgery may be considered. Surgical options include removing damaged tissue or repairing and reattaching the affected tendons.

Prevention and Recovery

To prevent tennis elbow or reduce the risk of recurrence, it is important to:

1. Use proper technique and form during physical activities to avoid excessive strain on the elbow.

2. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of activities to allow the muscles and tendons to adapt.

3. Take regular breaks during repetitive tasks to give the forearm muscles time to rest.

4. Warm up before engaging in physical activities and perform stretching exercises for the forearm muscles.

5. Use proper equipment, such as a correctly sized racket or ergonomic tools, to minimize strain on the elbow.


Tennis elbow is a condition characterized by pain and inflammation on the outside of the elbow, often caused by repetitive motions and overuse of the forearm muscles. While it can be associated with tennis, it can affect anyone engaged in activities that strain the tendons. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, such as rest, physical therapy, and medication, can lead to successful recovery. By practicing prevention strategies and taking care to avoid repetitive strain, individuals can minimize the risk of developing or recurring tennis elbow.

The Fitness Well provides a range of core strength, stretching and injury prevention programs for all ages and abilities