What is Tennis Elbow?

A common injury that induces pain on the outside of the elbow is known as ‘Tennis elbow’ or lateral epicondylitis. The term was first used by Major in 1883 in the paper ‘Lawn tennis elbow’.



The person feels pain on the downside of the elbow, 1 or 2 cm away. A biggest problem with tennis elbow is that the person shall not be able to do easy tasks like hand shake or operating the door handle on account of weak wrist. When the hand is bent backwards or when the person tries to put the fingers straight against resistance at the wrist, pain is felt on the outside of the elbow. When the area below the lateral epicondyle is pressed, pain is felt. Inflammation is seen in rare cases but the tendons in the area become extremely sensitive and morning stiffness is observed.



If the wrist is repeatedly bent backwards against resistance, it may lead to tennis elbow. Activities like playing tennis and performing other tasks may be the cause for the pressure on the area. If the player’s backhand technique is poor, or uses a racket with small grip and such similar practices may lead to tennis elbow. Playing tennis with wet or heavy balls also pressurizes the wrist and elbow. Other activities like painting, usage of screw driver and typing may become the cause for the tennis elbow syndrome.



There is no particular treatment for tennis elbow. A combination of treatments can be tried to lessen the symptoms. It also depends on the patient’s reaction to the treatment.


Application of ice to the elbow for 15 minutes 5 or 6 times a day will help in reducing the inflammation and pain.


Ample rest should be given to the affected elbow. Proper rest makes the healing faster.


A brace or support should be worn about 10 cm down the forearm. It protects the tendon and at the same time heals and strengthens the wrist. Special exercises will be taught by doctors and physiotherapists.


The doctor will check the patient to rule out neural involvement in the injury. Ultrasound or laser treatment may be advised for reducing the inflammation and pain. Massage therapy may be advised too.


Alternative treatment like acupuncture is said to be very effective in curing the symptoms of tennis elbow. If nerve tissue involvement is noticed other neural stretching exercises may be advised. To reduce severe pain, steroid injection may be given to the patient. In chronic cases when all treatments fail to give any relief, operation may be the solution. Almost 85%-95% people who are operated get relief from the pain after surgery.



As playing tennis is the most important cause for tennis elbow syndrome, by following few tips, the condition may be prevented.


Correct technique should be used while learning the game. Tennis balls hit the racket with over 80 miles per hour speed. This force directly influences the elbow and may lead to the injury. Backhand stroke is another cause for the injury. Care should be taken not to bend the wrist while playing the backhand stroke. Wrist should be firm while playing different strokes in the game. The player should have good footwork. The surface of the tennis court also decides the speed of the ball.



Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) give short term relief. In comparison to oral NSAIDs, injected NSAIDs give better results.



In the rehabilitation process, stretching is an important aspect. The arm should be to the outside and moved downwards. To increase stretch wrist should be bent and held this position for 30 seconds and repeated 4-5 times. This exercise should be performed at least three times in a day.


If proper care is taken while performing tasks that involve the wrist and elbow movements, tennis elbow can be prevented.