What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is soreness or pain on the outer part of the elbow. It happens when you damage the tendons that connect the muscles of your forearm to your elbow. The pain may spread down your arm to your wrist. If you don’t treat the injury, it may hurt to do simple things like turn a key or open a door.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Most of the time tennis elbow is caused by overuse. You probably got it from doing activities where you twist your arm over and over. This can stress the tendon, causing tiny tears that in time lead to pain. A direct blow to the outer elbow can also cause tendon damage.
Tennis elbow is common in tennis players, but most people get it from other activities that work the same muscles, such as gardening, painting, or using a screwdriver. It is often the result of using equipment that is the wrong size or using it the wrong way.
Anyone can get tennis elbow, but it usually occurs in people in their 40s.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow symptoms usually begin gradually. The main symptom is pain, which may begin with a dull aching or soreness on the outer part of the elbow that goes away within 24 hours after an activity. As time goes on, it may take longer for the pain to go away. The condition may further progress to pain with any movement, even during everyday activities, such as lifting a jug of milk. Pain may spread to the hand, other parts of the arm, shoulder, or neck.
Tennis elbow pain:
- Usually occurs in the dominant arm (your right arm if you are right-handed, left arm if you are left-handed).
- Affects the outside of the elbow (the side away from your body). Pain increases when that area is pressed or when you are grasping or twisting objects.
- May increase in the evening and make sleep difficult. The elbow might be stiff in the morning.
- Over time may occur with mild activity, such as picking up a coffee cup; turning a jar lid, doorknob, or key; or shaking hands. Simply starting your car could hurt. You may even have pain when you aren’t using your elbow.
Other parts of the arm, shoulder, and neck may also become sore or painful as the body tries to make up for the loss of elbow movement and strength.
How is Tennis Elbow Treated?
The longer you continue activity that harms the tendon after tennis elbow symptoms begin, the longer the tendon till heal. This ongoing activity can cause severe tendon damage and may someday require surgery. If your symptoms don’t go away, your doctor may suggest:
- Oral Medications
- Elbow Brace
- Anti-inflammatory Injections
- Shockwave Therapy
- Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
When To Call a Doctor
Call a doctor immediately if you had an injury to your elbow and:
- You have severe elbow pain.
- You cannot move your elbow normally.
- Your elbow looks deformed.
- Your elbow begins to swell within 30 minutes of the injury.
- You have signs of damage to the nerves or blood vessels. These include:
- Numbness, tingling, or a “pins-and-needles” sensation below the injury.
- Pale or bluish skin.
- The injured arm feeling colder to the touch than the uninjured one.
Call a doctor if you have:
- Pain when grasping, twisting, or lifting objects.
- Work-related problems caused by your elbow pain.
- Elbow pain after 2 weeks of home treatment or if treatment is making your elbow pain worse.
Tennis Elbow Specialist
Dr Kevin Yip, Orthopaedic & Tennis Elbow Specialist