The Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

A Fix My Elbow guide to recognising and understanding the symptoms of Tennis Elbow.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

If you are experiencing elbow pain, you may be suffering from tennis elbow.


Despite its name, tennis elbow doesn't just affect athletes. Tennis elbow is the most common condition among people experiencing elbow pain, and it's most common among labourers and people who work with their hands.


The symptoms of tennis elbow can range from person to person, but all report a pain in their elbow joint that can often radiate down their forearm. In addition, the symptoms can grow more persistent over time.


This article will outline more details about what tennis elbow is and the most common symptoms of tennis elbow.

What is tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)?

Tennis elbow – or ‘lateral epicondylitis’ – is a pain or ache on the outer side of the elbow bone or joint.


Patients often report lateral elbow pain when the soreness radiates up their forearm to their wrist. The pain can make it hard to grip things. 


Tennis elbow is most common among people who use their hands every day and put extra stress on their wrist and forearm. Carpenters, painters, and plumbers often suffer from tennis elbow because of the repetitive motions they do in their work. Tennis elbow is exacerbated by overuse. The repetitive motion doesn't give the muscle a chance to heal, so the tendon tears can become worse or even chronic.


Elbow anatomy

The elbow is a joint made up of three bones and is surrounded by ligaments, tendons, and muscles, which control the movement of your hands and fingers. 


When pressure or stress is placed on your elbow, forearm, and wrist, it can cause inflammation or tears in the tissue, leading to pain.


If not treated, the pain can worsen, and it can affect your ability to move and bend your arm.


Symptoms of tennis elbow

Tennis elbow symptoms can vary depending on the patient.


Most of the time, the first instance of pain is mild, but it can become more extreme if not addressed.


Some of the most common symptoms of tennis elbow include:

Pain on the elbow joint

The most common symptom among patients is pain on the outside of the elbow, often described as pinching, throbbing, or aching.


It's often brought on by repetitive motions. Still, some patients experience pain in the middle of the night or later, after they've completed the activity.


As mentioned, if untreated, the symptom becomes worse and can radiate down the forearm or up as high as the neck.

Redness or swelling

Often elbow pain is accompanied by redness of the elbow or swelling of the area as far down as the forearm muscles.


This is the result of the inflamed tendons and can often present shortly after the activity that brought on the pain. Redness or swelling is a sign of irritation.


Doctors often recommend you pause or stop the action to give your strained muscles and tendons a break.

Soreness or stiffness

The elbow's soreness or stiffness may arrive a bit later, hours, or even a day or two after the activity.


For example, as the tears in your tendons and ligaments heal, you could experience soreness in your elbow joint or stiffness when you bend your arm.


It may hurt to lift or bend your elbow due to this symptom, and it might feel tender to the touch.

Difficult gripping

Another symptom of tennis elbow is pain when you try to grip things – for some, the pain or stiffness might be so extreme that they can't grab or hold stuff at all.


For example, patients report having difficulty grasping a coffee cup or turning a doorknob when experiencing tennis elbow.


The strain in their forearm makes the gripping or twisting of things especially challenging. They have a hard time controlling their muscles. This symptom is a strong indicator that you've developed tennis elbow.


The pain and other symptoms outlined above can last anywhere from a few weeks to months. However, suppose the pain does not dissipate or go away after several months. In that case, you may want to see a doctor or expert to diagnose the pain.


You can read more information here about what causes tennis elbow.


To diagnose tennis elbow

If your elbow pain continues to get worse, it's recommended that you see a doctor or specialist. They are likely to take an X-ray or MRI scan to determine the condition causing the pain.


A scan will show if a tendon is inflamed or something more severe like arthritis or a broken or damaged bone that needs to be fixed. Eighty-95 percent of patients recover without surgery, but tennis elbow can sometimes require an operation to correct more severe damage.

How to prevent tennis elbow

To avoid developing tennis elbow and experiencing the above symptoms, make a point to avoid repetitive motion that puts a strain on your wrist and forearm.


If you experience pain from repetitive action, be sure to give your muscles a break or ice them to reduce inflammation. If you can, take your weight off your forearm and wrist.


If you are an athlete, make sure to use good form and use equipment that is the right size for your hand and arm. In addition, there are many other ways to prevent and treat tennis elbow.

Conclusion

This article outlined some of the main symptoms of tennis elbow – how they present, how long they last, and more details about lateral epicondylitis pain.

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FAQ's

What is the leading cause of tennis elbow?

The term "tennis elbow" is used to describe pain or tenderness on the outside of the arm. It is most often caused by overuse of the muscles that control the wrist and fingers, which tend to weaken over time. As a result, stress may be placed on parts of the arm that support them (the tendons).

How long does tennis elbow take to heal?

If you have symptoms of tennis elbow, it is essential to start treatment as soon as possible. Early treatment can help speed up recovery and reduce the risk of long-term problems.


Symptoms often improve within a few weeks with home care treatments such as applying ice or heat, taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers, using an arm support, and performing exercises. If symptoms persist or are severe, you may need to wear a cast or splint for several weeks. It is vital to keep the arm supported during treatment.


Supporting your arm can help reduce pain and prevent further damage. You can also try applying heat before exercise or using an ice pack on the affected area.


The Fix My Elbow programme is designed to give you da-by-day, step-by-step video instruction for this, no matter where your starting point is.


Where is the pain located with tennis elbow?

Symptoms are usually felt on the outside of the arm near the elbow, but they also can occur inside the arm close to where it joins with the forearm. Symptoms can worsen when you straighten your wrist or fingers against resistance (palm up), turn your palm down, or grip things tightly. You may feel pain in both arms.

Does tennis elbow hurt all the time?

Not necessarily. Initially, you may experience pain when you straighten your arm against resistance (palm up) or turn your palm down. Likewise, throwing a ball or opening a jar can be painful. Still, if you follow a physio or physical therapy protocol like Fix My Elbow, the pain gradually reduces.