How do I know if I have Tennis Elbow?


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What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is a commonly used term to describe lateral epicondylitis. Lateral epicondylitis is inflammation of the tendons on the lateral (side) aspect of the elbow. Over time, slowly healing micro tears occur that can lead to break down of the tendon. Through repetitive stress or overuse, the extensor tendons become painful at the area where they originate from the bone, which is the lateral epicondyle.

I don’t play tennis, so why do I have lateral elbow pain?
Although lateral epicondylitis has been linked to racquet sports, such as tennis, you do not have to play tennis to be diagnosed with this condition. Any activity requiring repetitive movement of the wrist can cause lateral epicondylitis. Examples of activities where people perform repetitive wrist movements are gardening (using pruning shears), playing sports (throwing/hitting items), or homemaking tasks (chopping vegetables/sweeping floors).

I feel very sharp pain at my elbow, is this typical?
When people have lateral epicondylitis they can often feel intense, sharp pain with active straightening of the elbow, movement of the wrist, lifting objects or palpating the lateral elbow. The pain can radiate along the extensor muscles on the forearm.

How can I prevent tennis elbow?
When playing sports, make sure to use proper technique and appropriately sized equipment. Using racquets that are too heavy can increase the likelihood of developing lateral elbow pain. If pain occurs when lifting items, try to modify the way you lift the items. For example, if lifting grocery bags causes you to have lateral elbow pain, use a cart or a backpack to carry groceries. If pain occurs while performing repetitive activities, change the way you perform the activity. For instance, if cutting vegetables and meats causes you pain, buy precut foods or cut the foods over a longer period of time (take breaks between each item).

If you think you’re suffering from tennis elbow, call 1.866.804.1007 to find a doctor who can help.

Information provided by Stacy Oster, MS, OTR/L, CHT, Senior Occupational Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist at Beth Israel Medical Center.


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