Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is the most common injury in patients seeking medical attention for elbow pain. Exactly what causes tennis elbow is unknown, but it is thought to be due to small tears of the tendons that attach forearm muscles to the arm bone at the elbow joint.
The muscle group involved, the wrist extensors, function to cock the wrist back. Specifically, the extensor carpi radialis brevis has been implicated in causing the symptoms of tennis elbow.
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
Patients with tennis elbow syndrome experience pain on the outside of the elbow that is worsened by grasping objects and cocking back the wrist. The most common symptoms of tennis elbow are:
Pain over the outside of the elbow
Pain when lifting objects
Pain radiating down the forearm
The pain associated with tennis elbow usually has a gradual onset, but it may also come on suddenly. Most patients with tennis elbow are between the ages of 35 and 65 years old, and it affects about an equal number of men and women. Tennis elbow occurs in the dominant arm in about 75 percent of patients. Anyone can be affected, but tennis elbow is most commonly seen in two groups of people.
When do I need to see the doctor for tennis elbow?
Bring the following symptoms to your doctor’s attention:
Inability to carry objects or use your arm
Elbow pain that occurs at night or while resting
Elbow pain that persists beyond a few days
Inability to straighten or flex your arm
Swelling or significant bruising around the joint or arm
Any other unusual symptoms