Tennis elbow is caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons in your forearm near to your elbow joint. It's caused by any activity that involves repetitive movement in your elbow, wrist and forearm.
It can affect anyone but is most common in people aged 30–50 years. Although movement of your elbow joint isn’t restricted, it can be painful and make some everyday tasks difficult.
In most cases, tennis elbow goes away after about a year with simple treatments and avoiding the repetitive activity that caused it.
Causes of tennis elbow
Around your elbow joints are muscles that move your elbow, wrist and fingers. Tendons connect some of these muscles to the bony lump on the outside of your elbow. When your muscles and tendons are overloaded, tiny tears can form causing a thickening of the tendon. Over time, this can become painful.
Activities which may cause tennis elbow include:
A similar condition causing pain on the inside of the elbow is golfer’s elbow (also known as medial epicondylitis).
The main symptom of tennis elbow is pain that:
Tennis elbow usually affects one arm more than the other (usually the dominant arm).
You should see your GP if the pain is affecting you or has lasted a long time.
Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and will carry out simple examinations; for example, to see if you have pain when you stretch out your fingers and flex your wrist while your elbow is extended.
Occasionally, your doctor will arrange an ultrasound scan or MRI scan to rule out other conditions.
They'll then be able to advise an effective tennis elbow treatment.
If you stop the activity that caused it, tennis elbow may eventually go away by itself. However, there are some things you can do to help reduce pain and speed recovery:
In severe cases, tennis elbow treatment may involve tendon surgery.