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  Elbow Pain and Problems » Lateral Epicondylitis Tennis Elbow


What is lateral epicondylitis?

Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is characterized by pain in the back side of the elbow and forearm, along the thumb side when the arm is alongside the body with the thumb turned away. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm. A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

What causes tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow, as the name implies, often is caused by the force of the tennis racket hitting balls in the backhand position. The forearm muscles, which attach to the outside of the elbow, may become sore from excessive strain. When making a backhand stroke in tennis, the tendons that roll over the end of the elbow can become damaged. Tennis elbow may be caused by the following:

  • improper backhand stroke
  • weak shoulder and wrist muscles
  • using a too tightly strung or too short tennis racket
  • hitting the ball off center on the racket or hitting heavy, wet balls
  • painting with a brush or roller
  • operating a chain saw
  • frequent use of other hand tools on a continuous basis

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

The following are the most common symptoms of tennis elbow. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Initially, the pain may be felt along the outside of the forearm and elbow. The pain may increase down to the wrist, even at rest, if the person continues the activity that causes the condition. Pain may also persist when the arm and hand are placed palm-down on a table and the person tries to raise the hand against resistance.

The symptoms of tennis elbow may resemble other medical problems or conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

The diagnosis of tennis elbow usually can be made based on a physical examination. However, in some cases, an x-ray of the elbow is necessary.

Treatment for tennis elbow:

Specific treatment for tennis elbow will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies
  • expectation for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment for tennis elbow includes stopping the activity that produces the symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • ice pack application (to reduce inflammation)
  • strengthening exercises
  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • surgery
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