Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a condition where pain occurs in the outside area of the elbow. As a type of tendinitis, the pain from tennis elbow occurs where the tendons in your forearm muscles attach to the bony bump of your elbow.

Tennis elbow is similar to another elbow condition called golfer’s elbow, which affects the tendon in the inside area of the elbow.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

Don’t let its name fool you; anyone can be affected by tennis elbow, especially non-athletes. In fact, tennis elbow is the most common reason why people see their doctor for elbow pain.

Any repetitive gripping activities — especially ones using the thumb and first two fingers — can cause tennis elbow. This condition develops over time from the stress that excess gripping puts on the tendons. Tugging motions can also cause microscopic tears in the tendons.

Some common athletics that can cause tennis elbow include:

  • Tennis
  • Fencing
  • Weight Lifting
  • Racquetball

Other activities that can lead to tennis elbow are:

  • Typing
  • Raking
  • Knitting
  • Painting

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

Tennis elbow most commonly causes pain in the upper extremities, including the elbow and upper or lower arm. You’re likely to also experience pain while working with your hands and tenderness in the bony knob that is on the outside of your elbow.

The following activities can also become really painful:

  • Lifting items
  • Making a fist
  • Opening a door
  • Shaking hands
  • Straightening the wrist

To diagnose tennis elbow, your doctor will ask you to flex your arm, wrist and elbow to evaluate where exactly the pain is. You may need digital imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI.

Tennis Elbow Treatment

Tennis elbow is a completely treatable condition and pain relief can come from many non-surgical options including:

  • Icing to reduce pain and swelling
  • Using an elbow strap to protect the elbow from further damage
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications
  • Range of motion exercises to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility
  • Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the muscles.

Most importantly, your elbow will need rest while the tendon heals. Signs of improvement in your condition will likely come when:

  • Your elbow is no longer swollenGripping/tugging movements are no longer painful
  • The injured elbow feels as strong as your other elbow
  • You’re able to flex and move your elbow without any pain or stiffness

Can Tennis Elbow Be Prevented?

There’s good news for those worried about tennis elbow: it can be prevented as long as you follow the tips below.

Avoid overuse

Use proper techniques

  • Using sports equipment or tools that are too heavy for you will do more harm than good. You should also always stick to proper postures when participating in activities like golf and tennis.

 

Locations

Dover, NH Orthopaedic Clinic

19 Webb Place
Dover, NH 03820

Rochester, NH Orthopaedic Clinic

120 Washington Street Suite 101
Rochester, NH 03839

Portsmouth, NH Orthopaedic Clinic

155 Borthwick Avenue, Suite 102
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Plaistow, NH Orthopaedic Clinic

13 Plaistow Road
Plaistow, NH 03865

Raymond, NH Orthopaedic Clinic

6 Freetown Road
Raymond, NH 03077

Exeter, NH Orthopaedic Clinic

1 Hampton Road
Exeter, NH 03833

95%

The percentage of tennis elbow cases that are from non-tennis players.

Your Tennis Elbow Treatment Options

The orthopaedic physicians at Access Sports Medicine can help you find relief from your tennis elbow symptoms.

Our staff understands and recognizes the importance of providing current and accurate workers’ compensation information and patient progress reports in a timely manner. Above all, our focus is on the recovery process and getting patients back to work quickly.

Request an Appointment

Specializing Doctors

Specializing Doctor

Matthew Quitkin, MD, MBA

Dr. Quitkin has more than 18 years of experience in hand and upper extremity surgery and has written countless scholarly publications. He is also an award-winning physician, including accolades from Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors list.

Meet Dr. Quitkin
Specializing Doctor

Joshua A. Siegel, MD

Dr. Siegel is an award-winning surgeon with more than 20 years of experience. He is a US Olympic Committee team physician, a US ski team physician and covers USGA and PGA tour events. Locally, he is the team physician for several high schools, including Phillips Exeter Academy.

Meet Dr. Siegel

Frequently Asked Questions

Does tennis elbow require surgery?

If non-operative, conservative treatment methods fail, then surgery may be considered. You should consult with an orthopaedic physician if you are experiencing tennis elbow pain, and they will then be able to put you on the best path toward recovery.

Is tennis elbow a serious injury?

Tennis elbow can be acute or chronic, depending on the stage of progression of the tendon damage. Acute tennis elbow typically lasts less than three months, while chronic tennis elbow can involve pain lasting longer than three months with tendons in disrepair.