Healthy Living

What is Tennis Elbow: Get The Facts

What is Tennis Elbow: Get The Facts

Key Takeaways

  • Facts about tennis elbow
  • Causes of tennis elbow
  • Treatment for tennis elbow

What is Tennis Elbow: Get The Facts

Tennis elbow also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a type of tendinitis characterized by swelling of the tendons. This swelling results in arm and elbow pains. Tendons are very important as they are bands which connect the muscles of your lower arm to the arm bone. Despite it's name, you generally develop this from prolonged sports activities. Repetitive gripping with your hand and fingers can exacerbate tennis elbow. It can affect people of any age, but it is most common in people over 40 years old. Tennis elbow is the main reason why many people seek medical specialists for elbow pain.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is a complication that develops over a period of time due to repetitive motions. These motions are like gripping a racket during a swing. Such a motion strains the muscles and puts too much stress on the tendons. This constant tugging causes microscopic tears in the tendons.

Tennis elbow can result from:

  • Fencing
  • Tennis
  • Weight lifting
  • Racquetball
  • Squash

Tennis elbow may also affect people with hobbies and jobs that require repetitive movements of the arm or gripping. Such hobbies and jobs include:

  • Typing
  • Raking
  • Knitting
  • Carpentry
  • Painting

Signs and Symptoms

The major symptom of tennis elbow is tenderness and pain around the bony knob on the outside of the elbow. This bony knob is a region where the injured tendons are connected to your arm bone. Although the complication is on the elbow, you are likely to feel pain in the entire arm when doing anything with your hands.
Tennis elbow will cause the most pain when you perform the following activities with your arm:

  • Open the door or even shaking hand
  • Lifting something
  • Straightening the wrist of raising your hand
  • Gripping on an object like a tennis racket

Diagnosis 

To test if you have tennis elbow, your medical specialist will do a thorough checkup/exam. The doctor will need you to flex your elbow, arm and wrist to see where the pain is most intense. Your doctor may also opt for imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging and X-ray to diagnose tennis elbow and also rule out other elbow complications.

Treatment 

Tennis elbow is a condition that can get better in time, even without treatment. This is referred to as a self-limiting condition. The condition can last for weeks or even months since the tendons heal slowly. In special cases, tennis elbow can last for more than a year. The most important thing you can do to treat your tennis elbow is to rest the injured arm and stop doing the activities that caused the complication.

The following are treatment measures for tennis elbow you may try:

  • Use of NSAIDs and painkillers
  • Physiotherapy 
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Surgery
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Avoiding or modifying repetitive activities

Bottom line

Tennis elbow is similar to another complication known as "Golfers elbow" which affects the tendons in your elbow. Despite the similarity, tennis elbow has its own causes, symptoms and treatment measures. Tennis elbow can be a very painful condition but if it is identified, simple measures can control and cure it.