Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is the most common injury in patients seeking medical attention for elbow pain. Exactly what causes tennis elbow is unknown, but it is thought to be due to small tears of the tendons that attach forearm muscles to the arm bone at the elbow joint.
The muscle group involved, the wrist extensors, function to cock the wrist back. Specifically, the extensor carpi radialis brevis has been implicated in causing the symptoms of tennis elbow.
Patients with tennis elbow syndrome experience pain on the outside of the elbow that is worsened by grasping objects and cocking back the wrist. The most common symptoms of tennis elbow are:
The pain associated with tennis elbow usually has a gradual onset, but it may also come on suddenly. Most patients with tennis elbow are between the ages of 35 and 65 years old, and it affects about an equal number of men and women. Tennis elbow occurs in the dominant arm in about 75 percent of patients. Anyone can be affected, but tennis elbow is most commonly seen in two groups of people:
X-rays of patients who have the diagnosis of tennis elbow are almost always normal. Other tests, such as an EMG, are sometimes conducted if there is confusion about the diagnosis.
Other causes of pain over the outside of the elbow include instability of the joint, elbow arthritis, and radial tunnel syndrome. The symptoms of these conditions are usually distinct, but in some cases they can be confusing.
No one knows for certain, but there are several ideas. It is known that tennis elbow is not simply an “inflammation” of the tendons around the joint. The problem is thought to be more of a degenerative process as a result of aging or repetitive use. The symptoms may be the result of an incomplete healing response in an area that does not have good blood flow and therefore has difficulty accessing nutrition and oxygen necessary for healing. This leads to degeneration of the tendon causing small tears.
Bring the following symptoms to your doctor’s attention:
*there is a point where too heavy a racquet results in the Player working harder to swing it than they should at which point the added weight becomes a hindrance, not a help in the arena of tennis elbow concerns. This point is specific to each Player depending on physique and technique.
Word of Caution…for persistent pain or any uncertainty about your condition immediately contact your health care professional.