Also known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is a serious condition in the elbow caused primarily by overuse. Tennis elbow is characterized by an inflammation of the tendons that extend through the forearm from the bony bump on the outside of the elbow. This bony bump is called the lateral epicondyle, hence the name of the condition.

The majority of tennis elbow cases occur in the dominant arm. However, the non-dominant arm is also at risk when any given action is performed repeatedly, causing small yet painful tears in the related tendon where it extends from the lateral epicondyle.

What are Tennis Elbow Symptoms?

The development of tennis elbow symptoms is not associated with any distinct injury: It is characterized by pain that gradually develops over time, particularly if left untreated. You may also notice increased pain when exerting pressure on the forearm or wrist, such as while shaking hands, lifting objects and handling eating utensils. An overall weaker grip is another common symptom.

Who Gets Tennis Elbow?

While tennis elbow indeed affects up to 50% of tennis players – whether professional or recreational – less than 5% of total diagnoses are attributed to playing tennis. At risk individuals include:

  • Those between the ages of 30 and 50, particularly men
  • Baseball players
  • Golfers
  • Carpenters
  • Mechanics
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Even cooks!

Note: In very rare cases, tennis elbow can be insidious, i.e., of an unknown cause.

How Tennis Elbow is Treated

Studies show that up to 95% of tennis elbow cases can be successfully treated with non-surgical techniques, such as ice, rest, anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises, physical therapy and more. If symptoms do not subside after 6 to 12 months of rigorous treatment, you may be required to undergo surgery – performed on an outpatient basis.