What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is swelling of the tendons that bend your wrist backward away from your palm.
A tendon is a tough cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones. The tendon most likely involved in tennis elbow is called the exterior carpi radialis brevis. Tennis elbow is usually diagnosed in both men and women between ages 30 to 50.
What causes tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow, as the name implies, is often caused by the force of the tennis racket hitting balls in the backhand position. Your forearm muscles, which attach to the outside of your elbow, may become sore from excessive strain. When making a backhand stroke in tennis, the tendons that roll over the end of our elbow can become damaged. Tennis elbow may be caused by:
- Improper backhand stroke
- Weak shoulder and wrist muscles
- Using a tennis racket that is too tightly strung or too short
- Other racquet sports, like racquetball or squash
- Hitting the ball off center on the racket, or hitting heavy, wet balls
However, many people who suffer from tennis elbow do not play tennis. The problem can be caused by any repetitive movement. Other causes of tennis elbow include:
- Painting with a brush or roller
- Working a chain saw
- Frequent use of other hand tools on a regular basis
- Using repeated hand motions in various types of work, such as butchers, musicians, dentists, and carpenters
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
The following are the most common symptoms of tennis elbow. However, you may experience symptoms differently.
At first, you may have pain, burning, or an ache along the outside of your forearm and elbow. With time, the pain gets worse. If you continue the activity that caused your condition, the pain may spread down to your wrist, even at rest. Pain may also persist when you place your arm and hand palm-down on a table, and then try to raise your hand against resistance. You may also feel pain when you try to lift and grip small objects, such as a coffee cup. A weak grip is another symptom of tennis elbow.
The symptoms of tennis elbow may look like other medical problems or conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is tennis elbow diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider can usually diagnosis your tennis elbow with a physical exam. In some cases, you may have certain tests, such as:
- An X-ray to look at the bones of your elbow to see if you have arthritis in your elbow.
- MRI can show your tendons and the amount of damage. An MRI of your neck can show if arthritis is in your neck, or disk problems in your spine are causing your arm pain.
- Electromyography (EMG) of your elbow may show if you have any nerve problems that may be causing your pain.