What Is Tennis Elbow And How Can
You Prevent It?


Tennis elbow is a painful condition that affects the outside of the elbow. Lateral epicondylitis is the medical term for it. It usually occurs as a result of overuse or repeated action of the forearm muscles near the elbow joint.


You may experience pain on the outside of your elbow that travels down your forearm if you:

  • bending or lifting one’s arm
  • when holding small objects like a pen
  • when you twist your forearm to open a jar or turn a door handle
  • It may also be difficult for you to fully extend your arm.


It’s important to know how to prevent this painful condition because there are no cures available yet! Here are some tips:

  • Stop the painful activity or find a different way to do it that isn’t painful or stressful.
  • Keep your wrist and elbow from being used more than the rest of your arm. It may also help to distribute the load to your shoulder’s larger muscles.
  • If you play a sport that requires repetitive movements, such as tennis or squash, seek coaching advice to help you change or improve your technique.
  • Before playing a sport that requires repetitive arm movements, warm up properly and gently stretch your arm muscles.
  • To avoid putting extra strain on your tendons, use lightweight tools or racquets with a larger grip size.
  • When you’re using your arm (not when you’re resting), wear a tennis elbow splint.
  • increase the strength of your forearm muscles (a physiotherapist can advise you about exercises to build up your forearm muscles).


What is the cause of tennis elbow?

Overuse of the muscles attached to your elbow and used to straighten your wrist is the most common cause of tennis elbow. Tiny tears and inflammation near the bony lump on the outside of your elbow (the lateral epicondyle) can develop if the muscles are strained.

Tennis elbow is sometimes caused by playing tennis, but it can also be caused by any activity that puts repeated stress on the elbow joint. Golfer’s elbow is a condition that causes pain on the inner side of the elbow.


Tennis elbow treatment

Tennis elbow improves on its own (it’s a self-limiting condition), but there are treatments that can help alleviate symptoms and hasten recovery. Rest your injured arm and stop any activities that are causing it to hurt.

  • Holding a cold compress against your elbow for a few minutes several times a day, such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, can help relieve the pain.
  • Pain relievers, such as paracetamol, may be used to alleviate mild pain. Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also be used to help reduce inflammation.
  • In more severe cases, physiotherapy may be recommended. Massage and manipulation of the affected area may aid in the relief of symptoms.
  • Surgery to remove the damaged tendon part may be used as a last resort.
  • Tennis elbow can last anywhere from six months to two years, but in nine out of ten cases, it heals completely within a year.


How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

A doctor will examine your elbow and ask questions about the problem, your daily activities, and previous injuries to diagnose tennis elbow. You probably won’t need an X-ray, but you might get one to rule out other possibilities for what’s causing your pain.

If your symptoms don’t improve after treatment, an imaging test, such as an MRI, may be recommended. This can help your doctor determine whether your symptoms are caused by a bone problem or tissue damage.


How long does it take for a tennis elbow to heal?

Depending on your level of activity, you will notice an improvement in approximately 1-3 weeks with proper treatment. In most cases, the injury will heal completely within 6-8 weeks.

You may not know the term, but you’ve likely been affected by it. Some of us have had to take time off work or quit our hobby due to this condition that can be debilitating if left untreated. Read on and learn more about tennis elbow so you don’t suffer from a similar fate!


Are You Looking for Non-Surgical
Relief from an Elbow Injury?


Dr. Chen sees patients at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital Center for Sports Medicine in Walnut Creek, California. He is a board certified Pediatrician and Sports Medicine Doctor that specializes in the non-operative medical treatment of a wide variety of various musculoskeletal conditions.  Dr. Chen graduated from St. George’s University School of Medicine and went on to complete Pediatric residency training at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey (Rutgers), then went on to fellowship training in Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, one of the perennially top ranked children’s hospitals in the nation. There he provided sideline coverage for NCAA Division I athletics at the University of Cincinnati and Miami University (OH). Since graduating, Dr. Chen has continued his love of sports coverage by volunteering for the San Francisco Marathon, the San Francisco Giant Race, and as the team physician for Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. Being a part of The Center for Sports Medicine allows Dr. Chen quick access to a multidisciplinary team of orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, physiatrists, and physical therapists to return you to your highest functional level quickly and safely. Click here to contact us for your next appointment!


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