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Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is an extremely common injury that originally got its name because it is a frequent tennis injury, appearing in a large proportion of tennis players. Nevertheless it commonly manifests in a vast proportion of people who do not play tennis at all.
Lateral epicondylitis occurs most commonly in the tendon of the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle at approximately 2cm below the outer edge of the elbow joint or lateral epicondyle of the humerus bone.
Specific inflammation is rarely present in the tendon but there is an increase in pain receptors in the area making the region extremely tender.
- Pain about 1-2 cm down from bony area at the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle)
- Weakness in the wrist with difficulty doing simple tasks such as opening a door handle or shaking hands with someone,
- Pain on the outside of the elbow when the hand is bent back (extended) at the wrist against resistance,
- Pain on the outside of the elbow when trying to straighten the fingers against resistance,
- Pain when pressing (palpating) just below the lateral epicondyle on the outside of the elbow.
- The symptoms for this injury are very similar to Entrapment of the radial nerve which we recommend you also have a look at.
- It is important to have the neck examined as well, as elbow pain can be referred from problems in this region. See the neck pain page for further details.
- Tennis elbow is often caused by overuse or repetitive strain caused by repeated extension (bending back) of the wrist against resistance. This may be from activities such as tennis, badminton or squash but is also common after periods of excessive wrist use in day-to-day life.
- A poor backhand technique in tennis.
- A racket grip that is too small.
- Strings that are too tight.
- Playing with wet, heavy balls.
- Repetitive activities such as using a screwdriver, painting or typing.