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Tennis elbow


Alternative Names:

Epitrochlear bursitis; Lateral epicondylitis; Epicondylitis - lateral

Symptoms:

Symptoms can include any of the following:

  • Elbow pain that gets worse over time
  • Pain that radiates from the outside of the elbow to the forearm and back of the hand when grasping or twisting
  • Weak grasp
Exams and Tests:

Your doctor or nurse will examine you.  The exam may show:

  • Pain or tenderness when the tendon is gently pressed near where it attaches to the upper arm bone, over the outside of the elbow
  • Pain near the elbow when the wrist is bent backwards

X-rays may be done.

Treatment:

The first step is to rest your arm for 2 or 3 weeks and avoid the activity that causes your symptoms. You may also want to:

  • Put ice on the outside of your elbow 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin.

If your tennis elbow is due to sports activity, you may want to:

  • Ask your health care provider about any changes you can make to your technique.
  • Check the sports equipment you are using to see if any changes may help. If you play tennis, changing the grip size of the racket may help.
  • Think about how often you play, and whether you should cut back.

If your symptoms are related to working on a computer, ask your manager about changing your workstation or your chair, desk, and computer setup.  

A physical therapist can show you exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles of your forearm.

You can buy a special brace for tennis elbow at most drugstores. It wraps around the upper part of your forearm and takes some of the pressure off the muscles.

Your doctor may also inject cortisone and a numbing medicine around the area where the tendon attaches to the bone. This may help decrease the swelling and pain.

If the pain continues after 6 to 12 months of rest and treatment, surgery may be recommended. Talk with your orthopedic surgeon about the risks and whether surgery might help.

Outlook (Prognosis):

Elbow pain may get better without surgery. But most people who have surgery have full use of their forearm and elbow afterwards.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

  • This is the first time you have had these symptoms
  • Home treatment does not relieve the symptoms
References:

Brummel J, Baker CL III, Hopkins R, Baker CL, Jr. Epicondylitis: lateral. Sports Med Arthrosc. 2014;22:e1-6.

Pitzer ME, Seidengerg PH, Bader DA. Elbow tendinopathy. Med Clin North Am. 2014;98:833-849.

Regan WD, Grondin PP, Morrey BF. Elbow and forearm. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 19.


Review Date: 9/8/2014
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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