What Is Tennis Elbow?

Lateral epicondylitis, which is more commonly known as “Tennis Elbow”, usually is first felt when the elbow becomes sore and tender. Usually the pain is especially felt when the patient tries to extend their arm completely. Typically either repetitive motion or a sudden injury, like a hyperextension or a pull on the lower arm, can lead to tennis elbow. Either way it is caused, damage has been done to the tendon that attaches to the lateral epicondyle, which is a bony prominence on the outside of the elbow. The typical symptoms of tennis elbow are:

  • Outer elbow pain
  • Stiffness, especially early in the day
  • Pain when grasping an item or moving the wrist
  • Extending the arm or wrist completely causes pain
  • A tender spot on the elbow
  • Forearm weakness
  • Opening jars or doors causes pain

How Did I Get Tennis Elbow? I Don’t Even Own A Racquet

Tennis elbow was first given its name from a medical paper published in 1883, which called the injury,“lawn-tennis elbow.” The name has stuck with the condition, but it is not truly descriptive of the majority of people who get the injury. Almost anyone can receive this injury especially those who work in a job or plays a sport that requires repetitive motion or has the potential for a forceful extension of the arm. Anyone from plumbers to food service workers to racquetball players have the potential for tennis elbow injuries.

What Are The Treatments For Tennis Elbow?

When you visit a physician there a few potential treatment options available for your orthopedic physician to prescribe including physical therapy, medication, and surgery.


Physical therapy usually includes stretching and strengthening exercises designed to prevent the injury from occurring again. The therapist may also splint or brace the arm to help with healing as well as teach the patient how to perform activities in a way to avoid reoccurrence.


Physicians may prescribe a few different types of medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen. None of the medications are usually effective at improving the condition but they can help relieve pain in the short term. Occasionally a doctor may prescribe a short series of corticosteroid injections. Again, the steroid injections are only a short-term strategy.


In cases that are particularly sever, or if the symptoms have not improved over a years time of therapy, the physician may suggest surgery. The surgery is usually performed through a single large incision or a few smaller incisions in the elbow. The incisions allow the doctor to remove the damaged tissue from the joint. After surgery the physician almost always prescribes therapy. In order to speed healing and recover lost mobility, it is vital that the patient takes part in therapy and performs the exercises that are prescribed.

If you are experiencing what may be tennis elbow you need to see a physician to get effective treatment. Home treatments, including over the counter pain relievers, are a stopgap in most cases and do not heal the injury that is causing the pain. Schedule online with one of Chicago’s top orthopedic physicians today to get your elbow pain cared for.

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