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Tennis Elbow is no game

                                       March 2010  

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbowYou don’t need to spend time on court to suffer from tennis elbow (medical name lateral epicondylitis) - anyone who overuses the muscles and tendons of their forearm and elbow can suffer from this painful problem.

It is surprisingly common, each year around five people in every 1000 suffer from tennis elbow, and while the most common age for the problem to occur is between 30 and 50 years, people of any age can develop this condition.

The elbow joint is surrounded by a group of muscles that are responsible for moving your elbow, wrist and fingers. The tendons in your elbow join the bones and muscles together and control the muscles of your forearm.

Tennis elbow occurs when one or more of the tendons in your elbow become inflamed. The pain occurs at the point where the tendons of your forearm muscle attach to the bone. If this area becomes inflamed, then certain movements that use the forearm can be painful.

In some conditions the pain can be on the inner side of the elbow and the pain can also radiate down the forearm from the outer side. Another possible symptom is a weakness in the wrist which can affect simple tasks such as opening a door handle or shaking hands with someone.

Symptoms can be similar to an entrapment of the radial nerve, or even a neck problem, so if the pain becomes a real problem, it does need to be investigated by a medical professional.

Tennis elbow can be caused by a general overuse or repetitive strain of the muscles and tendons in the forearm and elbow, possibly from prolonged gripping activities, or by repeated bending back of the wrist against resistance. Certainly poor grips in tennis, perhaps a poor backhand technique, can cause tennis elbow, but so can a myriad of other repetitive activities including painting or using a keyboard on a computer.

When you suffer from tennis elbow, resting the arm is always a good idea to stop further aggravation of the problem. Ice therapy can help relieve the pain. Anti-inflammatory painkillers can help reduce mild pain and inflammation. In many cases, tennis elbow will disappear with or without treatment, but if the problem is prolonged or severe, then your doctor may recommend a course of cortisone (steroid) injections or even surgery.

Once you have recovered, it can be a good idea to do progressive strengthening exercises to prevent a reoccurrence.


If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.

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