Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) (cont.)

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What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is inflammation of the tendon at the outer portion of the elbow, leading to pain. Classically, tennis elbow is a strain injury to this tendon from hitting a backhand shot at tennis. The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis because it involves inflammation at the insertion point of the tendon at the outer portion of the humerus bone at the elbow joint (the epicondyle). Most people with lateral epicondylitis acquire it from activities other than tennis playing.

In contrast, when the tendon that attaches at the inner portion of the elbow is inflamed, the condition is referred to as medial epicondylitis (or "golfer's elbow" because golfers commonly injure this area after striking the ground to take a deep divot).

What causes tennis elbow?

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A strain injury to the tendon at the outer portion of the elbow causes tennis elbow. While this can occur by straining during a backhand tennis shot, it can also occur from many repetitive activities that can strain the elbow. These activities include using a screwdriver or work that includes similar motions, Frisbee disc throwing, and lifting objects by extending the wrist, etc.

What are tennis elbow risk factors?

Risks of tennis elbow include any activity that can strain the elbow joint. Such activities include tennis, falling onto the extended upper extremity, using a screwdriver when unaccustomed, casting a fishing net, etc.

What are symptoms of tennis elbow?

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Symptoms of tennis elbow include dull pain and tenderness at the outer elbow. There can be elbow stiffness and a sensation of weakness. Typically with tennis elbow, people retain the full range of motion of the elbow and there is no significant swelling or discoloration. Holding a beverage cup or shaking hands can bring on the pain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2014

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