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Can I get tennis elbow if I do not play tennis?

Thomas Plut, DO
Sports Medicine
Most tennis elbow diagnoses are not related to actually playing tennis. Any work or recreational activity that requires repetitive and vigorous use of the forearm muscle can lead to tennis elbow. Painters, plumbers, landscapers, butchers, office or house cleaners, assembly-line workers, golfers and baseball players all can develop the condition.

Most people who get tennis elbow are between the ages of 30 and 50, although anyone can get it. Tennis elbow most commonly affects people in their dominant arm (a right-handed person would experience pain in the right arm). However, both arms can be impacted.
 
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You can get "tennis elbow" even if you don't play tennis! The "doctor" term for this condition is lateral epicondylitis, and we see it in people who do the same arm movements over and over. As you can imagine, it's pretty common to see painters, plumbers, construction workers, etc., not just tennis players who suffer with this problem.
Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
While tennis elbow can result from poor technique when it comes to your backhand, you don't have to actually engage in the sport to suffer from the problem -- it also can be related to general overuse of the muscle and tendons in your elbow while you engage in tasks that involve repetitive motion, like chopping vegetables, ironing clothes or using a computer mouse. It's thought that these motions, however minor, may cause degeneration of the tissues that attach the muscles to the bone of the elbow, causing pain in the bony outer area of the elbow. This means that if you have tennis elbow, holding anything tightly -- whether it's a tennis racquet or not -- will cause discomfort that may spread down as far as your wrist and may be severe enough to disrupt sleep.
Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is an inflammatory issue resulting from poor upper extremity mechanics beginning with the shoulder blade and arm bone and resulting in poor forearm function. Therefore any activity can create this issue, even typing!

Yes you can develop tennis elbow without ever picking up a racket. Tennis elbow is merely tendonitis of the tendons on the lateral part of the elbow. This is often caused through repetitive movements. Our posture, specifically shoulder alignment can play a key role in keeping our elbows healthy as well. So remember to take a break from typing, video games and yes tennis if you start to develop pain on the top and outside of your elbow. You can follow the traditional protocol of rest, ice, compression and elevation to alleviate the discomfort but contact your physician if discomfort persists.  Exercise therapy has shown to be very effective in relieving tennis elbow and preventing an exacerbation of the symptoms. See a physical therapist, athletic trainer or corrective exercise specialist for an individualized program and make sure to take a look at the big picture. Sometimes tight ankles or sore backs can lead to sore elbows. The body is one interconnected piece and we need to keep that in mind.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.