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  • Writer's pictureDr Travis Horne

What is Tennis Elbow?

What is Tennis elbow?

Elbows can get injured through repetitive actions. Tennis elbow is a term used for lateral epicondylitis which is an injury to the tendons and muscles located on the outside or the lateral part of the elbow. This is opposite to the golfers elbow which is the medial epicondylitis, a similar injury but instead of the pain and injury experienced laterally, it’s on the inside or the medial part of the elbow.

It can be an inflammation, pain or soreness on the lateral side of a person’s upper arm just near the elbow. This could be caused by a partial tear to the tendon fibers that connects the muscle to the bone. It is called tennis elbow not because it is suffered by tennis players only but because it is a usual problem for tennis players. Nonetheless, anyone who uses their arm for repetitive movement can suffer from this injury.

What are the causes?

The major cause of tennis elbow is the repeated motion of the forearm and/or wrist. Many tennis players have suffered from this condition at least once in their career but it can also affect athletes of other sports too. People who have work activities or participates in a leisure sport that requires a repetitive motion of the arm, wrist and elbow may also suffer from lateral epicondylitis.

For tennis athletes and enthusiasts, they can experience tennis elbow as a result of a poor technique for one-handed backhand, or serving with the palms turned downward that results to the snapping of the wrist while hitting the ball in full speed and power, or with the snapping of the wrist as a result of a late forehand preparation swing.

What are the symptoms?

  • Elbow pain on the outside part that worsens gradually and radiating to the forearm as well as the back of the hand

  • Weakness and difficulty grasping

  • Pain worsens as the person shakes hands or is squeezing an object

  • Pain worsens when lifting an object or using tools that would move the wrist as a result of putting force on it

  • Stiffness

  • Restriction of movement

  • Tightness

What are the Risk Factors?

More men are affected by this condition than women. 1 to 3% of the population suffers from lateral epicondylitis at least once in their life and tennis players are the ones who have the highest risk factor. People who have jobs that require repetitive movement on their arms, elbows and wrists are more likely to suffer from tennis elbow. Such jobs include carpentry, mechanics, assembly-line workers, household cleaners, gardeners, baseball players, golfers, bowlers and landscapers.

Tests and diagnosis

X-rays may be done to rule out fracture but, physical examination typically can determine whether a patient suffers from this debilitating condition. When the doctor presses the tendon that attaches the bone on the upper arm and outside of the elbow, the patient would feel tenderness and pain. Also, when the wrist is being extended, the patient would also feel pain.


Treatment of Tennis Elbow can include Active Release Techniques, massage, acupuncture, ultrasound therapy, stretches, ice and rest. Any combination of these therapies can significantly reduce the rehab time of this condition. For more information or to schedule a consult, call 724-553-5312 or click here to schedule online.

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