Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow

Infobox Disease
Name = Tennis elbow

Caption = Left elbow-joint, showing posterior and radial collateral ligaments. (Lateral epicondyle visible at center.)
DiseasesDB = 12950
ICD10 = ICD10|M|77|1|m|70
ICD9 = ICD9|726.32
MedlinePlus =
eMedicineSubj = orthoped
eMedicineTopic = 510
eMedicine_mult = eMedicine2|pmr|64 eMedicine2|sports|59 | MeshID = D013716

Tennis elbow is a condition where the outer part of the elbow becomes painful and tender. It's a condition that is commonly associated with playing tennis, though the injury can happen to almost anybody. [ [ Tennis elbow: even cricketers and housewives can get it] , a "Times of India" article dated September 4, 2004]

The condition is more formally known as lateral epicondylitis ("inflammation to the outside elbow bone") [ What is tennis elbow?] from the BBC Sport Academy website] , lateral epicondylosis, or simply lateral elbow pain.

According to the best available scientific evidencefact|date=May 2008, tennis elbow is an idiopathic, self-limiting, enthesopathy of middle age. As with many other hand and arm conditionsfact|date=May 2008, speculative etiologies such as overuse, tennis, etc. have very limited scientific support.

It can occur at any age above the teens. It typically occurs between the ages of 35 and 60, resolves in about one year, and never returns. It is rarely seen over age 70.

The condition was first described in 1883.cite journal | author=Kaminsky SB, Baker CL Jr|title=Lateral epicondylitis of the elbow|journal=Tech Hand Up Extrem Surg|year=2003|pages=179–89|volume=7|issue=4|pmid=16518219|doi=10.1097/00130911-200312000-00009] .


* Pain on the outer part of elbow (lateral epicondyle).
* Point tenderness over the lateral epicondyle--a prominent part of the bone on the outside of the elbow.
* Gripping and movements of the wrist hurt, especially wrist extension and lifting movements.
* Activities that uses the muscles that extend the wrist (e.g. pouring a pitcher or gallon of milk, lifting with the palm down) are characteristically painful.
* Morning stiffness.


The strongest risk factor for lateral epicondylosis is age. The peak incidence is between 30 to 60 years of age. No difference in incidence between men and women or association between tennis elbow and the dominant hand has been demonstrated.

The pathophysiology of lateral epicondylosis is degenerative. Non-inflammatory, chronic degenerative changes of the origin of the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle are identified in surgical pathology specimens.Boyer MI, Hastings H 2nd. Lateral tennis elbow: "Is there any science out there?". J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 1999 Sep-Oct;8(5):481-91. Review.] It is unclear if the pathology is affected by prior injection of corticosteroid.

Among tennis players, it is believed to be caused by the "repetitive nature of hitting thousands and thousands of tennis balls" which lead to tiny tears in the forearm tendon attachment at the elbow.

The following speculative rationale is offered by proponentswho of an overuse theory of etiology: The extensor carpi radialis brevis has a small origin and does transmit large forces through its tendon during repetitive grasping. It has also been implicated as being vulnerable during shearing stresses during all movements of the forearm.

While it is commonly stated that lateral epicondlyosis is caused by repetitive microtrauma/overuse, this is a speculative etiological theory with limited scientific support that is likely overstated. Other speculative risk factors for lateral epicondylosis include taking up tennis later in life, unaccustomed strenuous activity, decreased reaction times and speed and repetitive eccentric muscle contractions (controlled lengthening of a muscle group).

Exams and tests

The diagnosis is made by clinical signs and symptoms, which are usually both discrete and characteristic. There should be point tenderness over the origin of the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle from the lateral epicondyle (ECRB origin). There should also be pain with passive wrist flexion and also with resisted wrist extension (Cozen test), both tested with the elbow extendend. [ Tennis elbow] from the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia]

Radiographs may show some bone in the degenerative extensor carpi radialis muscle origin over the lateral epicondyle.

MRI typically shows fluid in the ECRB origin. There may also be a defect in this tissue. The use of the word "tear" to refer to this defect can be misleading. The word "tear" implies injury and the need for repair--both of which are probably inaccurate and inappropriate for this degenerative enthesopathy.


In general the evidence base for intervention measures is poor.cite journal | author=Bisset L, Paungmali A, Vicenzino B, Beller E | title=A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials on physical interventions for lateral epicondylalgia | journal=Br J Sports Med | year=2005 | pages=411–22; discussion 411–22 | volume=39 | issue=7 | pmid=15976161 [ abstract] | doi=10.1136/bjsm.2004.016170]

Non-specific palliative treatments include:
* Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin
* Heat or ice
* A counter-force brace or "tennis elbow strap" to reduce strain at the elbow epicondyle, to limit pain provocation and to protect against further damage.

Rest is the tennis player's treatment of choice when the pain first appears; the rest allows the tiny tears in the tendon attachment to heal. Tennis players treat more serious cases with ice [The effectiveness of ice treatment has been challenged in clinical research: cite journal | author=Manias P, Stasinopoulos D | title=A controlled clinical pilot trial to study the effectiveness of ice as a supplement to the exercise programme for the management of lateral elbow tendinopathy | journal=Br J Sports Med|year=2006|pages=81–5|volume=40|issue=1|pmid=16371498 [ abstract] |doi=10.1136/bjsm.2005.020909] , anti-inflammatory drugs, soft tissue massage, stretching exercises, and ultrasound therapy. [ How to treat tennis elbow] from the BBC Sport Academy website]

Other treatments with limited scientific support include:
* Local injection of cortisone and a numbing medicine
* Using a splint to keep the forearm and elbow still for two to three weeks
* Heat therapy
* Physical therapy
* Occupational therapy, primarily for stretching and strengthening of the wrist extensor musculature.
* Pulsed ultrasound to break up scar tissue, promote healing, and increase blood flow in the area
* Extra-corporeal shock wave therapy (lithotriptor)
* Botulinum toxin
* Blood injection (possibly augmented by plateletpheresis)
* Sclerotherapy
* Accupuncture
* Trigger Point Therapy
* Platelet-rich plasma [Mishra A, Pavelko T. Treatment of chronic elbow tendonitis with buffered platelet-rich plasma. Am J Sports Med. 2006;34:1774-1778] There are clinical trials addressing many of these proposed curative treatments, but the quality of these trial is generally poor. [Cowan J, Lozano-Calderón S, Ring D. Quality of prospective controlled randomized trials. Analysis of trials of treatment for lateral epicondylitis as an example. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2007 Aug;89(8):1693-9.]

One study has alleged that electrical stimulation combined with acupuncture is beneficial but evaluation studies are inconclusive.cite journal | author=Jiang ZY, Li CD, Guo JH, Li JC, Gao L | title=Controlled observation on electroacupuncture combined with cake-separated moxibustion for treatment of tennis elbow | journal=Zhongguo Zhen Jiu | year=2005 | pages=763–4 | volume=25 | issue=11 | pmid=16335198]

Cortisone injections

In four clinical trials comparing corticosteroid injection to placebo (lidocaine) injection that show no effect of the steroids. [Haines T, Stringer B. Corticosteroid injections or physiotherapy were not more effective than wait and see for tennis elbow at 1 year. Evid Based Med. 2007 Apr;12(2):39.] Complications from repeated steroid injections include skin problems such as hypopigmentation and fat atrophy.

Laser therapy

Laser Therapy has also been used. The approach was spun off of research on how light affects cells. The findings, that light stimulates and accelerates normal healing, sparked the creation of several devices. The dosage often determines the extent of the success with this treatment, so it is generally recommended that experienced clinicians apply the therapy with a device that can be 'customized.' Professional athletes have used the therapy and it has gained attention in the media lately, on shows like the Canadian health program "Balance" on CTV. However, studies evaluating the efficacy of laser therapy for tennis elbow are currently contradictory.

Exercises and stretches

There are several recommendations regarding prevention, treatment, and avoidance of recurrence that are largely speculative including:
#Stretches and progressive strengthening exercises to prevent re-irritation of the tendoncite journal | author=Stasinopoulos D, Stasinopoulou K, Johnson MI | title=An exercise programme for the management of lateral elbow tendinopathy | journal=Br J Sports Med | year=2005 | pages=944–7 | volume=39 | issue=12 | pmid=16306504 [ abstract] | doi=10.1136/bjsm.2005.019836] ;
#Progressive strengthening involving use of weights or elastic theraband to increase pain free grip strength and forearm strength;
#Racquet sport players also are commonly advised to strengthen their shoulder rotator cuff, scapulothoracic and abdominal muscles by Physiotherapists to help reduce any overcompensation in the wrist extensors during gross shoulder and arm movements;
#Soft Tissue Release or simply Massage can help reduce the muscular tightness and reduce the tension on the tendons; and
#Strapping of the forearm can help realign the muscle fibers and redistribute the load.

There is little evidence to support the value of these interventions for prevention, treatment, or avoidance of recurrence of lateral epicondylosis.

ee also

*Golfer's elbow
*Repetitive strain injury
*Radial tunnel syndrome


General references:
*cite journal | author=Wilson JJ, Best TM | title=Common overuse tendon problems: A review and recommendations for treatment | journal=Am Fam Physician | year=2005 | pages=811-8 | volume=72 | issue=5 | pmid=16156339} [ Full article] [ PDF] Specific references:

External links

* [ Tennis elbow] from Medinfo

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • tennis-elbow — [ tenisɛlbo ] n. m. • 1964; angl. tennis elbow (1883), de tennis et elbow « coude » ♦ Anglic. Synovite du coude, fréquente chez les joueurs de tennis. Des tennis elbows. ● tennis elbow, tennis elbows nom masculin (mot anglais, de tennis …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • tennis-elbow — m. reumat. Ver epicondilitis. Medical Dictionary. 2011 …   Diccionario médico

  • tennis elbow — n. painful inflammation of the elbow, esp. of its tendons, caused by strain in rotating the forearm, as in using a tennis racket …   English World dictionary

  • tennis elbow — n [U] a medical problem in which your elbow is very painful …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • tennis elbow — noun uncount a medical condition in which your elbow swells and hurts …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • tennis elbow — ► NOUN ▪ inflammation of the tendons of the elbow caused by overuse of the forearm muscles …   English terms dictionary

  • Tennis elbow — ● Tennis elbow épicondylite provoquée par la pratique intensive du tennis …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • tennis elbow — noun painful inflammation of the tendon at the outer border of the elbow resulting from overuse of lower arm muscles (as in twisting of the hand) • Syn: ↑lateral epicondylitis, ↑lateral humeral epicondylitis • Hypernyms: ↑tendinitis, ↑tendonitis …   Useful english dictionary

  • Tennis-elbow — Épicondylite Une épicondylite ou épicondylite latérale, connue également sous le nom de tennis elbow, désigne un trouble musculosquelettique du coude, caractérisé par une inflammation douloureuse des structures situées à proximité de l épicondyle …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Tennis elbow — Épicondylite Une épicondylite ou épicondylite latérale, connue également sous le nom de tennis elbow, désigne un trouble musculosquelettique du coude, caractérisé par une inflammation douloureuse des structures situées à proximité de l épicondyle …   Wikipédia en Français

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