What is Tennis Elbow?

Lateral epicondylitis commonly called tennis elbow is a condition of overworked tendons in the elbow. This condition causes pain in the tendons that attach to the forearm muscle as a result of repetitive motions of the wrist and the arm. The cause of tennis elbow is due to muscle strain from activities that can range from poor techniques in tennis and repetitive motions due to activities in an occupation. People that are between the age of 30 and 50, athletes and certain occupations (i.e. plumbers, painters, cooks, etc) are at a greater risk of having overworked tendons that cause tennis elbow.


  • If a person suspects that they are suffering from tennis elbow, they generally implement self-care. The acronym to help remember what to do is R.I.C.E. which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
  • Rest: it is advised that the person avoid activities that will aggravate the symptoms.
  • Ice: use ice to help with swelling.
  • Compress: use a wrap to compress the elbow.
  • Elevation: to prevent and/or limit the amount swelling keep the elbow about the heart.
Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow

When treatment of tennis elbow cannot be resolved by self-care and by the use of over-the-counter medication for pain and inflammation alternative treatments may be needed. Iftreatment is necessary from a doctor, one can expect to have a physical examination performed to diagnose the condition. The physician may order more several different radiological exams. If an x-ray is performed, it is done so to rule out the possibility that there is a fracture or that the symptoms are the result of arthritis.


A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) would be ordered to determine if there is a neck condition that is presenting itself as tennis elbow. An electromyography (EMG) could be used to determine if the pain is being caused by a pinch nerve. Once a definitive diagnosis of tennis elbow is made, one can expect that they may be put into therapy to help reduce any stress on the damaged tissue, exercises to strengthen and stretch area, and/or they may be put braces. The doctor may also prescribe cortisone injections directly into the site help with the pain. Alternative treatments may also be useful for people that are looking for relief outside of the use of medications and surgery; these include chiropractic care and/or acupuncture.  If there is not a remedy to the pain, the physician may order the patient to have surgery to remove the damaged tissue and then therapy would be order to strengthen and rehabilitate the area.

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