Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis or extensor tendinopathy, is a painful medical condition caused by overuse of your forearm. Pain is most commonly felt in the elbow region. Lateral epicondylitis is nicknamed tennis elbow because it is often found in those who play tennis or any other racquet sports. However, there are still other activities that can cause tennis elbow.
In tennis elbow, the tendons that join the forearm muscles at the outside of your elbow are inflamed due to repeated motions of the forearm. They are inflamed because the forearm muscles and the tendons connecting them to your bones are either injured or damaged. This will cause you to experience pain and tenderness at the outside of your elbow. Tennis elbow can either develop very suddenly (acutely) or over a period of days or weeks (chronically) in a gradual manner.
There are many treatment options for tennis elbow. In most cases, the treatment is carried out through a multidisciplinary approach. Primary doctors, physical therapists, surgeons, and pain doctors work hand in hand to provide you with the most effective care and management.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
- Playing tennis
The ECRB muscle is responsible for stabilizing your wrist when your elbow is in a straight position. This is usually the position of your elbow joint when you hit a groundstroke in tennis. When the ECRB is weakened due to overuse, microscopic tears will be formed in the tendon which attaches your muscle to the lateral epicondyle, causing inflammation and pain. When you play tennis, as your elbow bends and straightens, your ECRB rubs against your bony bumps. In the long run, this will cause gradual wear and tear of your ECRB, leading to inflammation and pain.
- Work-related causes
Lateral epicondylitis is not limited to tennis players. Other jobs and recreational activities that require a repetitive and vigorous use of the forearm muscle will inflict the same injury. Painters, plumbers, and carpenters could suffer from similar injuries. Some occupational studies showed that even auto workers, cooks, and butchers suffer from tennis elbow because of the repetitive and weight-bearing nature of their jobs.
It has been observed that most people who suffer from tennis elbow are between 30 and 50 years old. It is possible that age could be a contributing factor in causing tennis elbow.
- Wrong form and technique
One factor that could cause tennis elbow is wrong form and technique in playing the sport. While personal initiative could be the starting point in playing a particular sport, it should be played with the right form and technique. Hence, if you decide to take up a particular sport, ensure that you have a coach or a tutor who could guide you at the very start to ensure you learn the right form and technique. If you start the wrong way, it would be harder to re-train yourself and adopt another way!
- Improper equipment
If you have a tennis coach, inquire from him what is the right equipment for you. Picking out the right racquet to use would be beneficial. It is not advisable that you go straight to any store and get one randomly, find one that is the weight and string tension for your skill level.
- Other causes
Lateral epicondylitis could occur without you having a history of repetitive forearm activity. The cause could be described as “insidious” and remains unknown.