Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a common cause of elbow pain.
Tennis elbow is one of several overuse injuries that can affect your elbow. Other similar conditions include golfer's elbow and Little League elbow - but they involve a different part of your elbow.
The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the bony prominence on the outside of your elbow (lateral epicondyle). Pain can also spread (radiate) into your forearm and wrist. Another name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. The bony spot where pain occurs is near the lower end of the humerus, the bone that connects your shoulder to your forearm at the elbow.
By contrast, both the pain of golfer's elbow and the pain of Little League elbow occur at the bony prominence on the inside of your elbow (medial epicondyle). These conditions also go by the name medial epicondylitis.
Although playing tennis is one cause of tennis elbow, many other common activities can cause the condition. Treatments commonly involve rest and use of anti-inflammatory medications. Rarely, surgery is an option.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of tennis elbow may include:
Sometimes, you may feel pain even when you aren't moving your arm.
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury, involving repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that straighten and raise your hand and wrist. The repeated motions may result in inflammation or a tear of the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bone at the outside of your elbow.
As the name tennis elbow indicates, playing tennis — particularly, repeated use of the backhand stroke with poor technique — is one possible cause of the condition. However, quite a wide range of common arm motions can result in tennis elbow. These activities may include:
When to seek medical advice
If self-care steps such as rest, ice and use of over-the-counter pain relievers don't result in improvement of your symptoms in a week or so, see your doctor to rule out other complications.
Seek medical care immediately if:
Screening and diagnosis
Your doctor may be able to diagnose tennis elbow by examining your elbow and asking you questions about your symptoms. An X-ray can help your doctor rule out other possible causes of elbow pain, such as a fracture or arthritis.
Left untreated, tennis elbow can result in chronic pain. You may find the pain restricts your motion. Avoiding using your arm in certain ways can lead to loss of some of the function of your arm. In addition, overusing the arm again before it has healed can result in a worse injury.