What is Tennis Elbow? Symptoms, Causes and Treatment (2020)

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondyltis is a condition of elbow pain. It is caused by overuse of forearm muscles. It is the small tearing of tendons that join the forearm muscles to the outside of elbow.
It is an inflammation of tendons due to overuse of muscles close to the forearm. This can be due to any strenuous activity that uses more lifting or bending of forearm. Moreover, not only athletes but people who have jobs that require continuous motion of wrist and arm can develop tennis elbow.

50 percentof the tennis players experience tennis elbow. Moreover, it affects men more than women. Also, it affects people between age of 30 to 50.
Every year in the United Kingdom, 5 out of 1000 people complain about elbow pain to their doctor.

Symptoms of tennis elbow (when you may feel pain):

A a bump forms on the outside of elbow. The main symptom of it is pain in the upper forearm, just below the elbow and can also spread lower to the arm. The common symptoms also include:

  • Pain in the bend of forearm when the person lifts something.
  • Pain while twisting the forearm. For example when twisting a doorknob or extending the arm fully.
  • Pain while writing or lifting even small things.
  • Being unable to lift your arm.
  • Gripping strength weaken.
  • Hands start shaking while gripping any object too.

Causes/Risk Factors:

Overuse of muscles:

One major cause of tennis elbow is overuse. In a sense, the overuse of muscles of forearms by doing strenuous activities can lead to this problem. If these activities are repeated regularly or the forearm muscles are put to overuse, the tendons start to rupture. In other words, they start tearing.
This is named tennis elbow just for the reason that tennis players tend to grab the racquet and the motion of hitting the ball is repeated frequently, hence causing the inflammation. However, it does not occur to those who play tennis only. Tennis elbow affects people who, as told before, do extra activities which involve hand and arm movements repeatedly.

Inflammation or irritation: Inflammation is a reaction to a injury and often painful. The part of body becomes swollen or reddened. It is an irritation that causes pain. In tennis elbow, the inflammation in tendons that join the forearm muscles to bone tear, the tissues damage. So, this leads to straining of normal arm activities.

Strenuous activities:

Mostly, it’s the athletes that are more likely to a practice such exercise and activities that involve a lot of muscle movements. By muscle movement in tennis elbow, it means the muscles of forearm especially.
Moreover, after athletes, there are numerous jobs that require lifting and constant movement for arms. So, the constant movement of forearm muscles cause tear in the tendons and tissues. When the muscles move against the little bony bumps, they get strained. It causes pain in every movement of forearm later. The person is unable to grip any object, straighten their arm or work normally without feeling any pain or hindrance.

People in the following occupations are likely to have tennis elbow:

  • Tennis
  • Badminton
  • Weigh lifting
  • Squash
  • Typing (continuous)
  • Painting (especially those who paint large expanses of areas)


  • Proper rest to the elbow
  • Icing on the ruptured part of arm.
  • Steroid injections
  • NSAIDS (Advil or Paracetamol)
  • MRI scans
  • Ultrasound
  • Physiotherapy
  • Massaging
  • Arm braces
  • Proper excercise of the arm or elbow.

90% of the pain subsides with non surgical treatment. After the arm movement gets better, try out some exercises to keep the risk of it happening again. Six months to a year takes maximum for tennis elbow to completely heal.

Exercises for Tennis elbow:

  • Fist clench: for this exercise, you need a towel. Roll the towel and clench it on your fist. Straighten your arm over the table and start clenching for ten seconds and unclench the towel. This exercise will help you improve the grip on objects.
  • Wrist extension: extensors help the wrist to bend. In order to keep them working and have ease on moving your wrist, this exercise is required. All you need is a dumbbell, no more than 2 pounds. Start moving your wrist downwards and them back to straight position. Keep repeating the action for ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Wrist flexion: just like wrist extension, wrist flexion is the exercise for wrist. But here, you have move your wrist upwards rather than downwards while holding the dumbbell.
  • Writing: holding a pen is also difficult in tennis elbow. After the treatment, you have to get used to the older activities but extremely slowly. Try to hold the pen and write atleast a line or a paragraph, slowly. With passing days, increase the writing material.
  • Stretching: this is the most common exercise for any after treatment of body ache. Stretch your arm, bend it for a while and keep it straight again. Do the same with your wrist. Move your arm up and down. If you find restraint in going so, do it slowly.