Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow (also called lateral epicondylitis) is the gradual break down of the tendon around the bony knob (lateral epicondyle) on the outer side of the elbow. It occurs when the tissue that attaches muscle to the bone becomes irritated and somtimes inflamed.

Your lateral epicondyle

The muscles that allow you to straighten your fingers and rotate your lower arm and wrist are called the extensor muscles.  These muscles extend from the outer side of your elbow to your wrist and fingers. A cord-like fiber called a tendon attaches the extensor muscles to the elbow. Overuse or an accident can cause tissue in the tendon to become inflamed, injured, or degenerated.


Playing a racket sport can cause tennis elbow. So can doing anything that involves extending your wrist or rotating your forearm, such as:

  • Twisting a screwdriver
  • Hammering
  • Painting
  • Llifting heavy objects with your palm down

With age, the tissue may become injured or irritated more easily.


Symptoms generally develop over time. The most common symptom of tennis elbow is pain or burning on the outer side of the elbow and down the forearm. You may have pain all the time or only when you lift things. The elbow may also swell. And it may hurt to grip things, turn your hand, or swing your arm.


Your treatment will depend on how inflamed your tendon is. The goal is to relieve your symptoms and help you regain full use of your elbow.

Rest and medicine

Wearing a tennis elbow splint allows the inflamed tendon to rest. It must be worn properly. It should be placed down the arm past the painful area of the elbow. If it is directly over the inflamed tendon, it can worsen the symptoms. This brace can help the tendon heal. Using your other hand or changing your grip also takes stress off the tendon. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) and/or ice can relieve pain and reduce swelling.

Exercises and therapy

Your healthcare provider may give you an exercise program. He or she may refer you to a therapist. The therapist will teach you to gently stretch and then strengthen the muscles around your elbow.

Anti-inflammatory injections

Your healthcare provider may give you injections of an anti-inflammatory, such as cortisone. This helps reduce swelling. You may have more pain at first. But in a few days, your elbow should feel better.

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Treatments for Tennis Elbow

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Symptoms and Screenings for Tennis Elbow

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Causes and Preventions for Tennis Elbow

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Education and Resources for Tennis Elbow

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Vidant Health can connect you to health care professionals to help you understand your condition and guide you through the treatment process. Let’s chat.

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