Is This Me? « Tennis Elbow: A Resource of Medical Evidence & Research

Tennis Elbow: A Resource of Medical Evidence & Research

Is This Me?

Common names:

Tennis elbow includes conditions called lateral epicondylitis (for acute or sudden cases), lateral epicondylosis (chronic or long-term cases), elbow tendinitis or tendonitis (acute or sudden cases), elbow tendinosis or tendonosis (chronic or long-term cases), elbow tendinopathy or tendonopathy (a general term for both long-term and short-term cases), elbow pain, elbow tendon injury, and elbow overuse injury.

Signs and symptoms:

Tennis elbow usually shows up as pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, pain in the forearms and possibly pain in the wrists, all of which usually get worse with activity. Weak grip strength is also a sign. A common test to help diagnose tennis elbow is to have the patient stand behind a chair and try to lift the chair by putting their hands on top of the back of the chair with palms down. If the patient has tennis elbow, this action should result in pain on the outside of the elbow.

It is important for you to go to your doctor to be correctly diagnosed and get the appropriate treatment for your condition. An x-ray can help your doctor rule out other causes for your pain (fracture, arthritis). On rare occasion, your doctor may need more advanced imaging studies (MRI, ultrasound) to get to a diagnosis. Although tennis elbow is the most common cause of lateral (outside) elbow pain, there are a number of other conditions that may mimic tennis elbow (such as ligament sprain or insufficiency, radial nerve entrapment, elbow joint disease, entrapment of the interosseous nerve, osteochondritis dessicans of the radiohumeral joint, intra-articular loose body following trauma, ulnar collateral ligament damage, partial or complete tear of the tendon, cervical dysfunction, or nerve root compression), so it is important that you go to see your doctor to be properly examined, diagnosed and treated.

Who gets tennis elbow?:

Although up to one half of all tennis players get tennis elbow, most cases of tennis elbow occur in people who do not play tennis. Anyone can get it. Those at higher risk of developing tennis elbow are people between the ages of 35 and 50 who actively use their arms, wrists and hands on a regular basis, including those who have jobs that require repetitive movements, and those who hold tools or other heavy items in their hands while being active.

Elbow anatomy: what’s hurting?:

Your elbow joint is where your radius and ulna bones (forearm bones) and your humerus bone (upper arm bone) come together. Your muscles are the soft tissues that contract and relax to move your bones, and your tendons are tough, fibrous soft tissues that connect your muscles to your bones. Articular ligaments are the tough, fibrous tissues that connect your bones to other bones to form a joint.

Your lateral epicondyle is actually part of your humerus bone that sticks out and curves a little forward and attaches to a ligament and a tendon. Tennis elbow usually presents with tenderness over the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon (ECRB) at the lateral epicondyle (ECRB origin). Since tennis elbow is caused by problems with a tendon, it is sometimes referred to as a tendonitis/tendinitis or tendonosis/tendinosis. See the next section, “What’s Really Wrong” for an explanation of the latest science and research on tennis elbow and other tendinopathies.