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Tennis elbow

Overview of tennis elbow

Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, affects the elbow and forearm. It is so named because repetitive movements of the forearm — like hitting a tennis ball with a racket — can cause pain and swelling in the tendons and ligaments.

If you’re experiencing elbow pain and need relief, an orthopedic doctor at Dignity Health can assess your symptoms and create a personalized treatment plan just for you. If you need a specialist to treat your tennis elbow, Find a Doctor nearby.


Depending on the severity of your condition, signs of tennis elbow may include:

  • Soreness
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness
  • Pain and burning
  • Warmth or swelling around the elbow joint

You may have discomfort on the outside or top of your elbow, down your forearm, or in your wrist.

If you try to grip something, you may feel increased pain in your elbow or weakness in your arm. Tennis elbow symptoms may get worse after more intense activities.


The most common cause of tennis elbow is inflammation, or swelling, in the tendons and ligaments that surround your elbow joint.

Tennis elbow can also come from damage to the muscles in the forearm, especially in the area where they attach to the upper arm bone on the outside of the elbow.

Tennis elbow often develops from forceful, repetitive motion of the forearm.

Very rarely, tennis elbow may develop without this kind of injury or repetitive motion. This kind of tennis elbow has no known cause.

Risk factors

Your risk of developing tennis elbow increases dramatically if you frequently use your forearm in a gripping, twisting, swinging, or pushing motion.

“Tennis elbow” is called tennis elbow because it is commonly observed in tennis players. The action of swinging a tennis racket is one type of repetitive motion that can easily lead to inflammation and damage in the elbow joint.

Some people who work jobs that require repetitive bending and straightening of the arm may also experience tendonitis in their elbow.

Common examples of activities that can lead to symptoms include:

  • Carpentry
  • Cooking
  • Painting
  • Climbing
  • Hockey
  • Racket sports like tennis, racquetball, pickleball, lacrosse, etc.

Tennis elbow is commonly seen in people between 30 and 50 years old. This may be because people in this age bracket are more likely to engage in the activities that cause tennis elbow.


Tennis elbow is a common overuse injury that is best prevented by using proper form during activities, and resting between movements.

Since tennis elbow typically develops slowly over time, it is often possible to identify pain early and adjust activities before it causes problems. Here are some prevention strategies:

  • Rest: If you notice pain during an activity, stop and use RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) therapy to treat symptoms before they increase in severity.
  • Use proper form and reduce the tightness of your grip where possible.
  • Adjust the fit of your equipment: For sports that involve equipment, it is often possible to make adjustments to help alleviate tennis elbow symptoms. Tennis players may find that the size of their racket and how tightly it is strung can influence the strain on their forearm muscles.
  • Stretch the forearm muscles and wrists after exercise to reduce tightness.
  • Strengthen the muscles of the arm and forearm to stabilize the elbow joint.
  • Consider a brace: If you have previously been diagnosed with tennis elbow, or work a job where repetitive motion is unavoidable, you may want to discuss with your doctor whether using a supportive brace during activity would be helpful.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.