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Mar 2015

What is Tennis Elbow?

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A common injury for those active in specific sports and activities, tennis elbow is a condition that results from the overuse of the muscles in the forearm, arm, and hand which results in elbow pain.

Tennis Elbow

While playing tennis is a common cause of the injury, it is not the only way that it can occur. Any activity which involves extensive use of these muscle groups can cause tennis elbow, specifically affecting the area in which the forearm tendons and muscles attach to the lateral epicondyle bone. Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis is a similar condition that occurs in much the same way, but affects the inside of the elbow instead.

Who gets tennis elbow?

Approximately 1-3% of the population is affected by this condition and, while only 5% of tennis elbow diagnosis are related to tennis, up to 50% of tennis players will develop the condition at some point in their lives. Tennis elbow affects both men and women between the ages of 30 and 50 and can be caused by a wide variety of activities including:

  • Golf
  • Gardening & landscaping
  • Cleaning (especially professional cleaners)
  • Baseball
  • Bowling
  • Carpentry
  • Assembly-line work
  • Mechanical work

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  •  Increasing pain around the outer area of the elbow (in rarer cases the pain may develop suddenly)
  • An increase in pain when shaking hands, squeezing objects, using tools, lifting heavy items, and using utensils like cutlery or tooth brushes

Tennis elbow is often diagnosis based on the patient’s description of their pain and a physical examination by their doctor, but blood tests and x-rays can sometimes be used to help to confirm the diagnosis.


Treatment and recovery from tennis elbow usually begins with resting the affected elbow and avoiding those activities that cause pain. Ice can be applied to the affected region in order to reduce pain and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can be used to reduce swelling and manage pain.

Cortisone and other similar medications can also be used as topical or injectable treatments to reduce pain and restore movement. However, the most effective form of treatment are physical therapy exercises. Your therapist can recommended these exercises in order to help stretch and strengthen the affected muscles and tendons around the elbow.

If you are experiencing pain around the outside of your elbow and think it may be the result of tennis elbow or a related condition, you should contact your doctor or physical therapist to for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

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