Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)

When too much stress is placed on the muscles and tendons that connect the lateral epicondyle of the elbow, pain can occur on the outside of the elbow. This condition is known as lateral epicondylitis—or, as it is more familiarly known, tennis elbow. While—as the name would suggest—the injury is particularly common among tennis players, it can result from any activity that requires repetitive motion, including playing racquetball, typing on a keyboard, lifting small children, or operating a motor vehicle. The pain usually comes on gradually and worsens with use. It usually only affects one elbow, although it can, in some cases, affect both arms at once. Treatments for this condition include resting, applying ice, refraining from activities that aggravate the symptoms, making certain lifestyle changes (e.g., altering one’s home environment, workplace environment, or exercise regimen), and completing exercises designed to strengthen the surrounding muscles without putting excessive stress on the injured tendon. Physical therapy for tennis elbow may include therapeutic exercises that involve passive wrist flexion, progressive wrist extension, and elbow joint manipulation. The physical therapist also will provide education and activity modification guidance aimed at preventing recurrence. Most people can achieve full recovery from tennis elbow within a year.