What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

Thomas Plut, DO
Sports Medicine
Symptoms of tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, may start with an ache on the outside of the elbow. As the weeks or months pass, the feeling worsens to a severe burning pain. The grip weakens and the elbow feels sensitive to the touch. Shaking hands, shaving, twisting the arm or lifting objects as light as coffee cups can become nearly impossible.

Symptoms of tennis elbow include:
  • pain slowly increasing around the outside of the elbow
  • pain worsens when shaking hands or squeezing objects
  • pain worsens when stabilizing or moving the wrist with force, including lifting, using tools, opening jars or handling eating utensils 
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Tennis elbow is inflammation of the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. The muscles which extend the wrist attach at the lateral epicondyle. Repetitive movement of wrist flexion and extension, or repetitive contraction of these muscles causes inflammation and subsequent pain at the lateral epicondyle. The injury is often seen in tennis players secondary to repetitive contraction of these muscles while swinging the racquet, especially during the backhand.

Symptoms of tennis elbow include aching pain on the outside part of the elbow, during or after activity. The pain will gradually become worse over time and may cause weakness in the hand. There will be point tenderness and pain with resisted wrist extension. In some cases, the range of motion at the elbow may be limited.

The common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow are tenderness to the touch over the outer (lateral) bony prominence of the elbow and increased pain with wrist extension or strong gripping activities. The best treatment, if you think you may have tennis elbow, is to avoid the activities that cause irritation to allow the tissues to heal. Counterforce braces have been frequently used in an attempt reduce the forces through the muscles, but there has yet to be any scientific evidence proving their effectiveness.

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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.