Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

What are the most common symptoms of tennis elbow and can you experience the same injury without playing tennis?

The most common diagnosis received by patients complaining about pain in the elbow is lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow. This is true for athletes who play a lot of tennis, those who only play occasionally and those who do not play at all. In fact, around 90 percent of those with tennis elbow rarely, if ever, set foot on a tennis court. 

This condition, which affects the tendons in the forearm, is found in one to three percent of people in the U.S. and seems to be an equal opportunity injury, affecting men and women at the basically the same rate. While gender is not considered a risk factor, age does come into play with the majority of cases developing in adults over the age of 40. In addition, obesity, smoking, repetitive movement and activities that place a lot of force on the wrist, like swinging a tennis racket or lifting heavy objects, are considered to be the most significant contributors to the development of tennis elbow. 

The extra pressure on the wrist overloads the tendons that connect the wrist to the elbow, resulting in tears in the tissue. From there, pain, inflammation and decreased ability to function soon follow. Tennis elbow is commonly experienced in certain occupations, such as computer programmers, painters, carpenters, knitters, and assembly line workers. What these all have in common is repeated motions and gripping, especially using the first two fingers and the thumb.

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

Everyone is different and the activities and movements that lead up to the development of tennis elbow can be different from one person to the next. Some people may have a good idea when their injury started, while, for others, the progression may have been over a long period of time and only gradually becoming painful. 

For most people, the usual signs of tennis elbow will include some or all of the following:

  • Pain that runs from the outside of the elbow down to the wrist
  • A burning sensation that may start in the bony knob on the outside of the elbow and run all the way down the arm
  • Loss of strength in the hand, wrist, and arm
  • Difficulty gripping and holding on to objects, shaking hands, making a fist and turning doorknobs    

Treating Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow can be painful and interfere with daily activities. The good news is that it often gets better all by itself, provided the reasons for its development have been removed or sufficiently modified. For those cases that require treatment, the recommendations are generally some combination of:

  • Rest, especially stopping the repetitive motions responsible for the injury
  • Icing
  • Introduction of a protective “counterforce” brace
  • Medication to reduce inflammation and control pain
  • Physical therapy
  • Locally injected steroids utilizing ultrasound guidance
  • And in some cases – Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP)

While the most severe cases may require surgery, either open or arthroscopic, to repair a badly damaged tendon, surgery is rarely required for the treatment of tennis elbow. 

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physicians are committed to more than just treating your symptoms. We strongly believe that each individual is best served through an integrative treatment plan. We focus on finding the underlying cause and providing non-surgical, evidenced-based solutions tailored to your specific condition and needs. If you are experiencing elbow or wrist pain or have questions about any other condition or service, we invite you to schedule a consultation by using our convenient online form by clicking here