Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is an inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. It is an overuse injury where the inflammation leads to degeneration and potential tearing of the tendon. But, at times, they can occur acutely from an injury.
Tennis elbow is most common in people between the age of 30 to 50. The annual incidence of tennis elbow is 1% to 3% of the American population.
The following are the common causes of tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis):
Overuse and Repetitive Motion
Tennis elbow is mostly caused by overuse, repetitive, and strong use of the extensor muscles of the forearm. This leads to failure of muscle-tendon function, which causes the tendon to become inflamed. Example: playing tennis, badminton, or squash, repeated use of hand tools, and all activities that involve fine, repetitive hand and wrist movement.
Using the wrong equipment for sports like a golf club that is too heavy and a tennis racket that is too tightly strung or too short can cause tennis elbow. For example, if your racket has too much flex, your arm and wrist may be injured when using the racket. You need to ensure your racket is properly sized for your grip and that the string tension is appropriate for your level of play.
Improper posturing for a swing or backhand technique requires too much wrist action and results in jerky strokes or poor ball contact, which can also cause tennis elbow. Proper mechanics and body positioning are also important to prevent tennis elbow.
Other Labor-Intensive Jobs
People, who work on a construction site, spend hours hammering, using screwdrivers, and handsaws, which cause strain on the elbow and wrist leading to tennis elbow. Full-time painters often complain of pain radiating from the elbow as their work consists of repetitive wrist and elbow action as they scrape, prime, and re-paint surfaces.
Sometimes, a sudden arm or elbow injury can cause a tennis elbow. Example: Banging your elbow hard against a wall or hard surface – often by accident. This is rare but can lead to degeneration of the healthy muscle and tendons over time.
The other causes are playing instruments, lifting too much weight, not allowing time for recovery, typing, sewing, gymnastics, etc.
Tennis elbow is a painful condition, where placing your arm on a surface can also be very hard. You can avoid this by taking precautions and allowing your extremity to rest.
In case you have tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis, consult an orthopedic specialist to get it treated sooner to avoid complications.
Carolina Regional Orthopaedics provides the most effective, modern, and innovative techniques in both Orthopedic Surgery and Pain Management using proven methodologies in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of all conditions affecting the spine, upper extremities, and lower extremities. We specialize in hand and wrist surgery, joint replacements, sports medicine, trauma care, pediatric orthopedics, pain management, wound care, regenerative medicine, physical therapy, imaging services, and EMG testing.