Cause And Treatment Of Tennis Elbow

Basic identification of tennis elbow and first level treatment for the condition

Firstly I must say that there is a wealth of information on tennis/golfers elbow, medical term being lateral/medial epicondylitis. It is not the purpose of this article to detail in depth treatments but to help identify if you suffer from either of these conditions and simple remedies to assist in recovery. Having suffered from both these conditions and being reluctant to have intrusive treatment I found the following treatment most helpful.


Initially a burning sensation is felt below the elbow, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) being on the outside of the arm and golfers elbow (medial epicondylitis) being on the inside of the elbow. If pain is felt on the knob of the elbow this is bursitis which is a different problem altogether. Other symptoms are the feeling of weakness in the forearm and pain when trying to grasp objects. In my case I was unable to lift a cup of coffee.


Although the condition is called tennis/golfers elbow there are many causes. Generally damage is done at the point the forearm tendon is anchored to the upper arm bone (humerous) by shock travelling up the arm whist gripping something tightly, for example using a hammer or playing tennis. The result is small tears in the tendon at the anchor point and inflammation occurs. As the forearm muscles are in continual tension due to the opposing action needed by the hand for gripping, the tendon inflammation (tendinitis) has little chance to heal.

Initial treatment

Firstly, reduce the inflammation by using an ice pack and holding on the area of pain for 20-30 minutes 2 to 3 times a day (wrapping a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel is just as effective). Next step is stretching exercises; these are three good ones:

Holding the arm straight out in front of you and locking the elbow:

1. Starting with the palm face down slowly stretch the hand up until the fingers are at right angles to the forearm. Hold for 1 minute.

2. With the palm face down slowly stretch the hand down until the fingers are at right angles to the forearm. Hold for 1 minute.

3. With the palm face up slowly stretch the hand down until the fingers are at right angles to the forearm (or as close as you can go). Hold for 1 minute.

These exercises will lengthen the forearm muscle fibres and reduce the tension on the tendon thereby allowing the injured area to heal. It is not uncommon the healing process to take 3 months, so follow the exercise regime regularly. When pain is felt during use, rest the arm briefly and commence the stretching exercise. Return to your activity but take frequent breaks.

Secondary treatment

Oral anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen are useful for controlling the pain as well as the inflammation. Strapping is another method, placed 1 - 2 inches below the elbow it will support the tendon and reduce the stress on the site where it attaches to the bone. The straps used are similar to the elastic supports used for knee and ankle injuries. Straps should be used in conjunction with the stretching exercises and worn during work and sports.

Severe cases

In the case of severe damage cortisone injections could be needed and in extreme cases surgery may be the only recourse (less than 3% of patients require surgery). If the damage is this serious professional advice should be sought.

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