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Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
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Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

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Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a common cause of elbow pain.

Elbow - side view



Follow the instructions for P.R.I.C.E. (protect, rest, ice, compress, elevate):

  • Protect your elbow from further injury by not using the joint. If a particular sport or work activity causes symptoms, you may have to stop the activity until your symptoms improve.

  • Rest your elbow. But don't avoid all activity. Sometimes, wearing a forearm splint at night helps reduce morning symptoms.

  • Ice the area. Using a cold pack, a slush bath or a compression sleeve filled with cold water is the best way to limit swelling after an injury. Try to apply ice as soon as possible after the injury.

  • Compress the area using an elastic wrap or bandage.

  • Elevate your elbow above heart level when possible to help prevent or limit swelling.

Other self-care steps may help:

  • Massage the area. Massage — especially a technique called cross-fiber or friction massage, which you can learn from your physical therapist — may speed healing by improving circulation in the area.

  • Take acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory medications. Using over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or an OTC anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) may relieve pain.

  • Expected results. Tennis elbow is usually curable; however, if symptoms become chronic, it is not uncommon for treatment to continue for three to six months.

  • Key Terms

  • Epicondyle. A projection on the surface of a bone; often an area for muscle and tendon attachment.

  • Epicondylitis. A painful and sometimes disabling inflammation of the muscle and surrounding tissues of the elbow caused by repeated stress and strain on the forearm near the lateral epicondyle of the humerous (arm bone).  

  • Periosteum. A fibrous vascular membrane that covers bones.


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