Search Encyclopedia:    
List of Topics Print This Page
 

Tennis elbow


Alternative Names:

Epitrochlear bursitis; Lateral epicondylitis; Epicondylitis - lateral

Symptoms:

  • Elbow pain that gradually worsens
  • Pain radiating 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 and avoid the activity that causes your symptoms for at least 2 - 3 weeks. You may also want to:

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

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

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

If your symptoms are related to working on a computer, ask your manager about making changes to your work station or have someone look at how you chair, desk, and computer are set up.  

An occupational 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 drug stores. 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 - 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. However, 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:

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: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 19.

Schmidt MJ, Adams SL. Tendinopathy and bursitis. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 115.


Review Date: 8/11/2012
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA.

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.

   View History
  Tennis elbow

Related Links
Request an Appointment Online or call
1-800-789-PENN (7366)
   
   

 

About UPHS   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

The University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, PA 1-800-789-PENN © 2014, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania