Most people who get tennis elbow don’t play tennis.
Less than 5% of all cases of tennis elbow occur in people who play tennis. Tennis elbow can happen to anyone who repeatedly uses their elbow, wrist, and hand for their job, sport, or hobby.
What Is Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?
Tennis elbow is a painful condition caused by overuse of the “extensor” muscles in your arm and forearm, particularly where the tendons attach to rounded projections of bone (epicondyles) on the outside or lateral aspect of the elbow. The muscles you use to grip, twist, and carry objects with your hand all attach to the “lateral epicondyle” at the elbow. That’s why a movement of the wrist or hand can actually cause pain in the elbow.
Prolonged use of the wrist and hand, such as when using a computer or operating machinery —and, of course, playing tennis with an improper grip or technique—can lead to tennis elbow. It can happen to athletes, non-athletes, children, and adults. It occurs more often in men than women, and most commonly affects people between the ages of 30 and 50.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of tennis elbow can occur suddenly as a result of excessive use of the wrist and hand for activities that require force, such as lifting, twisting, or pulling. Forceful activities—like pulling strongly on a lawn mower starter cord—can injure the extensor muscle fibers and lead to a sudden onset of tennis elbow. Tennis may be a contributing factor to tennis elbow for several reasons.
Sometimes the problem results from over-training. In other cases, the weight of the racquet or its grip may need to be adjusted. For others, the problem may stem from improper form, poor overall fitness, or a lack of strength in the supporting or “core” muscles of the trunk and shoulder blades. Precision Physical Therapy can analyze the source of the problem and help find a solution.
More commonly, though, symptoms of tennis elbow develop gradually over a period of weeks or months as a result of repeated or forceful use of the wrist, hand, and elbow. If you work as a grocery store cashier, you might have symptoms of tennis elbow as a result of repetitive (and often too forceful) typing—combined with continuous lifting of grocery bags.
Your symptoms may include:
- Pain that radiates into your forearm and wrist
- Difficulty doing common tasks, such as turning a doorknob or holding a coffee cup
- Difficulty with gripping activities
- Increased pain when you use your wrist and hand for lifting objects, opening a jar, or gripping something tightly, such as a knife and fork
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Weakness in the forearm, wrist, or hand
How Can Precision Physical Therapy Help?
If you’ve modified your activities, tried rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications without relief, we offer special highly effective treatment interventions to bring you effective resolution of your symptoms. Advanced techniques such as dry needling, graston, and therapeutic cupping will help you get better, faster—and get you back to the activities you enjoy!
Precision Physical Therapy, LLC
Dr. Gregory Shea of Precision PT