Updated: Feb 23
Have you ever endured discomfort, pain, or tenderness along the outside of your elbow? It’s quite likely you have suffered from Tennis Elbow.
Tennis elbow is a common term for an injury of the upper outer part of the arm. It’s medical name is lateral epicondylitis. This condition is caused by repetitive movements or overuse, especially of the forearm. Forearm tendons are thick cords that attach muscles to bones. The most common areas for this injury are where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the elbow bone.
In this post, you’ll learn what causes tennis elbow pain and to catch the signs and symptoms. You’ll see some of that in this brief story of tennis elbow pain diagnosed and resolved!
Pointing to their arm and grimacing with discomfort, a patient came to me complaining of pain in their elbow. When I examined the patient's elbow, their pain was found to be located in their extensor muscles. With no prior experience with physical therapy, they worried about the discomfort they might have from it. Once I assured the patient that physical therapy would help relieve their pain and ultimately transform their pain to healthy muscles, they agreed and we began work on their extensor muscles. Massage in the clinic of the extensor muscles, was followed up with specific exercises given to the patient to do at home.
After the first week, the patient was able to move their arm without pain. After the second week, the patient was able to throw a ball. After the third week the patient was completely pain free and able to play tennis again.
In this post, we’ll explain what causes tennis elbow pain and the signs and symptoms you can look for to determine if you have tennis elbow pain.
What Causes Tennis Elbows?
The Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis muscle can become inflamed due to overuse and stress during repetitive motions, such as wrist extension and gripping. As the name implies, tennis elbow is often caused by the repetitive force of a tennis racquet hitting balls in a backhand position, however, the pain can occur in any activity that requires repetitive wrist extension and gripping of the hand.
The following is a list of causes specific to the sport of tennis:
Improper backhand stroke
Weak shoulder and wrist muscles
Over-use of the forearm muscles
Improper technique and faulty stances
Oh, you don’t actually play tennis?
You do not have to play tennis in order to suffer from tennis elbow. In fact, only 5% of tennis elbow cases are caused from playing tennis, while 95% of cases are from non-tennis related injuries.
Tennis elbow results from overuse of the arm and is painful. The injury occurs when the tendons that connect to your thumb are strained or loosened, causing pain in the forearm.
This commonly occurs:
When you use your arm to lift heavy objects
If you are doing repetitive activities
Due to lack of warm-up before doing activities that involve hitting, bending, or gripping
When engaged in activity on the computer, typing, and video game playing as just a few examples of movements that can lead to tennis elbow
The pain on the inside of your elbow is an indication that you have a tennis elbow situation. The pain can be very intense and it is even possible that you cannot raise your arm. It’s severity can differ greatly from person to person. You may also experience pain and stiffness in your elbow and the shoulder, and the pain and stiffness can move down your forearm and wrist.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
These are some common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow:
Pain, burning and/or tenderness in the outer part of your elbow or forearm
Pain that is sudden and sharp
Decreased or weak grip strength
Numbness in the index and middle fingers
Rest assured that if you feel you have a tennis elbow, your physiotherapist will do a physical exam and ask about the symptoms you are experiencing.
What can I do next to get rid of my pain?
Your therapist will assess your elbow pain and develop a treatment plan. The aim is to reduce pain and inflammation. Your therapist will also prescribe exercises that will help you improve your strength and mobility. Working together, you’ll soon be out of pain and resuming normal life - with a good awareness on how to avoid future pain, as well.