What is tennis elbow?

"Tennis elbow" is a general term that usually is not related to playing tennis. However, this term came into use because it can be a significant problem for some tennis players who grip their racquet too tightly.

Tennis elbow is a condition usually caused by overuse of the forearm muscles (wrist extenders) that results in pain at the elbow. It affects the outside (lateral) elbow.

Tennis elbow most commonly involves the area where the muscles and tendons of the forearm attach to the outside bony area (called the epicondyle) of the elbow. Your doctor may also call this condition "lateral epicondylitis."

Tennis elbow can affect either the dominant or non-dominant arm, or it may affect both arms.

Who is affected by tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow affects 1% to 3% of the population and, overall, 10% to 50% of tennis players during their careers. Fewer than 5% of tennis elbow diagnoses are related to tennis.

Tennis elbow affects men more than women. It most often affects people between the ages of 30 and 50, although people of any age can be affected.

Tennis elbow also affects other athletes and workers who participate in activities that require repetitive arm, elbow and wrist work. Examples include:

  • Golfers
  • Baseball players
  • Bowlers
  • Garden and lawn workers
  • Jobs that require vacuuming, sweeping, and scrubbing
  • Carpenters and mechanics
  • Assembly line workers

What causes tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is caused by either abrupt or subtle tearing of the muscle/tendon area around the outside of the elbow.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

  • Pain generally grows slowly around the outside of the elbow. Less often pain may develop suddenly.
  • Pain is worse when shaking hands or squeezing objects.
  • Pain is made worse by holding the wrist stiff or moving the wrist with force. Examples include lifting and using tools or even items like a toothbrush or knife and fork.

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