Tennis elbow is an inflammation where the forearm muscles, which extend the wrist and the fingers, attach to the outside of the elbow. The injury occurs when the tendon responsible for attaching the muscle to the bone at the elbow joint develops small tears. Over time, these tears can lead to painful inflammation and stress on other tissues in your arm. The medical name for this condition is lateral epicondylitis.
Tennis elbow typically results from repetitive, forceful gripping and lifting. It’s an overuse injury that develops over time, when the periods of repetitive motion are so frequent that the body doesn’t have enough time in between to rest and heal.
Only about 5 percent of people with tennis elbow got it from playing tennis specifically. Other sports and work-related activities that involve heavy use of the wrist and forearm muscles can cause tennis elbow as well.
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow
- Weak grip strength
The pain may be mild at first and gradually get worse over time. There is often no specific injury associated with the start of symptoms.
How is tennis elbow diagnosed?
To find out whether you have tennis elbow, your doctor will start with a physical exam. Your doctor may apply pressure to the affected area or ask you to move your elbow, wrist, and fingers in various ways. An X-ray can help rule out other possible causes of elbow pain, such as deposits of calcium, elbow fracture, or arthritis.
How is tennis elbow treated?
The vast majority (80 to 95 percent) of patients with these injuries have success with nonsurgical treatment. Nonsurgical treatment options for tennis elbow include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines (such as aspirin or ibuprofen)
- Review of sports equipment to ensure proper fit
- Splinting with a wrist brace or forearm strap
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections
If your symptoms do not respond after six to twelve months of nonsurgical treatments, your doctor may recommend an in-office procedure or surgery.
Get more tips for treating tennis elbow.
Summit Orthopedics provides personalized hand and wrist expertise
The function of our hands is integrated through our wrists and arms to our shoulders; a problem anywhere along our arm may have a significant impact on hand function and quality of life. If you experience an injury or uncomfortable symptoms, our fellowship-trained hand and wrist surgeons are here to help. Summit physicians receive the highest levels of training and exclusively provide individualized care for conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More resources for you
- Tips to Treat Tennis Elbow
- What Is Little Leaguer’s Elbow?
- How Is Little Leaguer’s Elbow Treated?
- Tips to Prevent Little Leaguer’s Elbow
- Learn about more treatments for tendon pain
- Watch the video: Are regenerative medicine injections safe?
Ask the Expert: Regenerative Medicine Video Series
Ask the Expert: Hand Video Series
Dr. Scofield discusses the benefits and risks of cortisone and PRP injections to treat tennis elbow.