What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is caused by inflammation of the tendons that attach to the outside or lateral side of the elbow. It is one of the most common elbow problems seen by orthopedic surgeons.

Lateral epicondylitis is characterized by pain on the outside or lateral side of the elbow, which can radiate or travel into the forearm and occasionally the hand. The pain usually occurs with grasping activities and may be accompanied by weakness of the hand. A constant achy pain may also be experienced even at rest or at night. Once the tendons become inflamed, the condition can be difficult to remedy because the tendons are used every time the hand grips or squeezes.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow may be caused by sudden injury or more commonly, from repetitive activity in which the tendons are overstressed. Repetitive activity can result from work, sports or a change in daily activities that require constant squeezing or gripping. The "overstressing" of tendons can be seen in someone who plays tennis more than usual or from excessive use of a screwdriver, hammer or performance of other activities requiring constant squeezing or gripping. As a result, the tendons become inflamed and tiny tears in the tendon tissue produce the pain experienced.

Is It A Serious Condition?

Tennis Elbow is painful but usually does not lead to serious problems. If the condition does go untreated or becomes severely painful, common activities such as using a hammer, lifting a milk jug or hitting a tennis ball may be significantly limited. Treatment in these cases may require surgery.