Also called lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is a painful condition that develops when the tendons on the outside of the elbow (the lateral side) become inflamed and damaged from overuse or repetitive strain. It derives its name because it's a common injury among those who play racket sports, where overuse of this tendon is especially common; however, there are many other activities that can cause tennis elbow. In addition to causing pain along the outer side of the elbow, tennis elbow can also result in a weakened grip and pain may be worse when gripping or lifting an object. A similar condition called golfer's elbow (or medial epicondylitis) occurs when the tendon on the inside of the elbow becomes damaged or inflamed.
Tennis elbow occurs most commonly from repetitive motions, specifically, motions that cause the elbow to be held in a straight position during movements of the forearm and wrist, such as when swinging a tennis racket. Repetitive use can cause the tendon to become strained, forming tiny tears in the tissue that cause pain and inflammation. Athletes are not the only ones who can develop tennis elbow. The condition is more common among carpenters, plumbers, waitresses, and auto and factory workers who sue their forearms to lift repeatedly. Tennis elbow most commonly occurs in people between 30 and 50 years of age.
Tennis elbow is diagnosed with a physical examination of the elbow joint and diagnostic imaging using x-rays or MRI. Nerve conduction studies (electromyography or EMG) may be ordered to rule out nerve impingement in the elbow which can cause similar symptoms.
In most cases, tennis elbow can be treated nonsurgically with bracing, rest, application of ice packs and physical therapy. Injections of corticosteroids can also help by relieving inflammation. In a few cases where conservative approaches are ineffective in providing long-term relief of symptoms, surgery may be recommended to repair underlying damage and restore pain-free range of motion
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