Tennis elbow is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overworked, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm.
Despite its name, most cases of tennis elbow occur in people who don’t play tennis. People whose jobs feature the types of motions that can lead to tennis elbow include plumbers, painters, carpenters and butchers.
The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow. Pain can also spread into your forearm and wrist.
Rest and over-the-counter pain relievers often help relieve tennis elbow. If conservative treatments don’t help or if symptoms are disabling, your doctor might suggest surgery.
The elbow joint is surrounded by muscles that move 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 is usually caused by overusing the muscles attached to your elbow and used to straighten your wrist. If the muscles and tendons are strained, tiny tears and inflammation can develop near the bony lump (the lateral epicondyle) on the outside of your elbow.
As the name suggests, tennis elbow is sometimes caused by playing tennis. However, it is often caused by other activities that place repeated stress on the elbow joint, such as decorating or playing the violin.
Tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition, which means it will eventually get better without treatment.
However, there are treatments that can be used to improve your symptoms and speed up your recovery.
It is important you rest your injured arm and stop doing the activity that is causing the problem.
Holding a cold compress, such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel, against your elbow for a few minutes several times a day can help ease the pain.
Taking painkillers, such as paracetamol, may help reduce mild pain caused by tennis elbow. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can also be used to help reduce inflammation.
Physiotherapy may be recommended in more severe and persistent cases. Massaging and manipulating the affected area may help relieve the pain and stiffness and improve the range of movement in your arm.
Surgery may be used as a last resort to remove the damaged tendon.
Most cases of tennis elbow last between six months and two years. However, in about nine out of 10 cases, a full recovery is made within a year.