Tennis Elbow is a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse. As the name suggests, tennis elbow has long been associated with racquet sports and other physical activities that overuse the arms. In tennis, the condition is often caused by the force of the tennis racquet hitting balls in the backhand position. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from repeating the same motion over and over again. In our computer age, tennis elbow also can happen to people who have never played racquet sports. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that physicians are increasingly seeing tennis elbow caused by non-sports activities such as constant computer keyboard and mouse usage.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), recent studies show that tennis elbow is often due to damage to a specific forearm muscle, the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB). The ECRB helps stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight. When the ECRB is weakened from overuse, microscopic tears form in the tendon at the point it attaches to the bony prominence on the outside of your elbow (the lateral epicondyle). These tendon tears lead to the inflammation and pain of tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Shoulder and Elbow Services in New York treats tennis elbow as well as a broad range of shoulder and elbow conditions that can occur at any stage of life.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
Common symptoms of tennis elbow include:
Tennis elbow is usually diagnosed in both men and women between the ages of 30 to 50 years. Please note that these symptoms may resemble other medical problems or conditions. If your symptoms don’t respond to rest, ice and/or over-the-counter pain relievers, it is best to see a physician.
Tennis Elbow Causes
Causes of tennis elbow include:
Tennis elbow treatments are typically non-surgical, such as rest, icing and anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections. Surgery may ultimately be indicated if your condition hasn't improved after 6 to 12 months. Most procedures for tennis elbow involve removing diseased muscle and reattaching healthy muscle back to the bone. Recovery time after surgery is usually 4 to 6 months.