Tennis Elbow Overview

You don’t have to be Serena Williams or Roger Federer to be diagnosed with “tennis elbow.” You may be surprised to learn that most patients with this condition have never played tennis, not even once! Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is the progressive degeneration of the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow.

In your forearm, there are several muscles that help extend and supinate (twist) your wrist. The muscles come together near your elbow to form one common extensor tendon, which attaches on a bony area on the lateral side of your elbow. This area is called the lateral epicondyle, hence inflammation or pain at this area is known as lateral epicondylitis.

The term “tennis elbow” originated from the high prevalence of the condition in tennis players. Players experience pain when grasping the racquet, with backhand strokes being most problematic, but pain may be associated with any grasping activity (including holding a coffee cup).

Tennis elbow is primarily an overuse injury, with racquet sports athletes, as well as painters, carpenters and mechanics, prone to developing tennis elbow. Today, the increased use of and hours spent typing at computers can make any person susceptible to epicondylitis.

If you have pain on the outside of your elbow that limits your activity or interferes with your job and hobbies, you may want to consider seeing a doctor for evaluation.


Written by Dr. Mark Galland. Dr. Galland is a Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon and adjunct Clinical Professor, specializing in sports medicine, practicing in Wake Forest and Raleigh. He serves as team physician and Orthopaedic consultant to the Carolina Mudcats, High-A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball, as well as several area high schools and colleges.  

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