Tennis Elbow: Causes and Symptoms

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Despite its name, tennis elbow is not limited to tennis players, it can affect anyone who repeatedly uses their forearm muscles. Tennis elbow can sneak up on you because of Activities like playing tennis (hence the name), but it can also occur in other sports, manual labour jobs, or even gardening or using a computer extensively. So, let's dig in and explore.

What is a tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the outer part of the elbow.  It typically occurs as a result of overuse or repetitive stress on the tendons that connect the muscles of the forearm to the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow. Understanding the causes and symptoms of tennis elbow is crucial in recognizing the condition, seeking appropriate treatment, and preventing further complications.

Tennis elbow causes:

Tennis elbow can occur in individuals who participate in various activities or occupations that involve repetitive motions. Some common tennis elbow causes or risk factors include:

  1. Sports
    Apart from tennis, other sports that involve repetitive arm movements, such as racquetball, golf, baseball, and weightlifting, can contribute to the development of tennis elbow.

  2. Occupational activities
    Jobs or tasks that require repetitive arm movements, gripping, or lifting heavy objects, such as plumbing, carpentry, painting, typing, and using vibrating tools, can increase the risk of developing tennis elbow.

  3. Incorrect technique
    Improper form or technique during sports or activities that involve repetitive arm movements can put additional strain on the tendons and increase the likelihood of causing a tennis elbow.

  4. Age and gender
    Tennis elbow most commonly affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. It can occur in both men and women, although it tends to be slightly more prevalent in men.

    It's worth noting that while these factors increase the risk of developing tennis elbow, they do not guarantee its occurrence. The condition can also arise from sudden injury or trauma to the tendons or be associated with certain medical conditions. 

Tennis elbow symptoms

Tennis elbow symptoms, or lateral epicondylitis, typically manifest in the elbow and forearm. Here are the common symptoms associated with this condition:

  1. Pain and tenderness
    The primary tennis elbow symptoms are pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow. The pain usually starts at the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow and may radiate down the forearm. The intensity of the pain can range from mild to severe.

  2. Worsening pain with activity
    The tennis elbow injury tends to worsen with activities that involve gripping, lifting, or repetitive wrist and arm movements. Actions such as shaking hands, lifting objects, turning a doorknob, or even simple tasks like holding a cup can exacerbate the pain.

  3. Weak grip strength
    Some individuals with tennis elbow symptoms may experience weakness in their grip strength. This can make it challenging to perform everyday tasks that require gripping or holding objects firmly.

  4. Stiffness or difficulty with arm movements
    In some cases, tennis elbow symptoms can be stiffness or limited range of motion in the affected arm. Movements like fully extending the arm or bending the wrist backward may cause discomfort.

  5. Pain during rest
    In more severe cases, the pain may persist even during rest or when no specific activities are being performed. The pain can interfere with sleep, causing discomfort at night.

    It's important to note that these symptoms may vary in severity and can develop gradually over time or appear suddenly after an injury. 

Tennis elbow treatment:

Tennis elbow treatment aims to reduce pain, promote healing, and restore functionality. The following treatment options are commonly recommended:

  1. Rest and activity modification
    Giving the affected arm and elbow adequate rest is crucial to allow the tendons to heal. Avoid or modify activities that exacerbate the pain or put strain on the tendons. This may involve temporarily stopping or modifying sports or occupational activities.

  2. Ice or heat therapy
    Applying ice packs or using cold therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation in the early stages of tennis elbow. Heat therapy, such as warm compresses, may be more beneficial during later stages to promote blood flow and aid in healing.

  3. Physical therapy exercises
    A physical therapist can design specific exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons around the elbow, improve flexibility, and promote healing. Eccentric exercises, where the muscle lengthens while under tension, are often included in the rehabilitation program.

  4. Bracing or splinting
    Wearing a brace or forearm strap around the affected area can provide support, relieve strain on the tendons, and reduce symptoms. These can be particularly helpful during activities that aggravate the condition.

    It's important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist, who can evaluate and recommend the most appropriate tennis elbow treatment tailored to your needs.


Please note that the above recommendations are general care tips. Consult a healthcare professional in case of any uncertainty around wound treatment and healing.

Always see your doctor if a wound is deep, bleeding profusely or showing signs of infection. For diabetic patients especially, proper wound care holds the utmost importance. Do not hesitate to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor or your podiatrist, even when it comes to minor wounds and cuts – especially if they’re on your feet.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Although compiled with great care, it is not a substitute for professional advice. If you have or suspect a health problem, consult your doctor immediately. 

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