Tennis Elbow

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What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that causes inflammation or degeneration of the tendons on the outside of the forearm. These tendons allow you to extend and lift your hand.

Tennis elbow causes

Repeat arm motions cause tennis elbow, such as:

  • Hitting a backhand in tennis.
  • Raking leaves.
  • Constant typing on the computer.

These repeated motions cause tiny tears in the elbow tendon.

Tennis elbow prevention

For tennis elbow prevention, be sure to:

  • Use proper technique when playing tennis, baseball, or other sports.
  • Stretch your forearm before tennis matches or baseball games.
  • Perform routine strength exercises.

Make an appointment for tennis elbow

To make an appointment or learn more about tennis elbow, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

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Tennis Elbow Symptoms and Diagnosis

Tennis elbow symptoms

Symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • A burning pain on the outside of the elbow that can spread down your arm to your wrist. The pain often starts off mild and then worsens over time.
  • Tenderness to the touch.
  • Pain when extending your wrist or when holding objects, like coffee mugs.

Tennis elbow diagnosis

To diagnose tennis elbow, your doctor will do a physical exam — looking at your elbow and the source of pain.

He or she will ask about your activities and past injuries.

In most cases, you won't need imaging tests unless your symptoms don't improve with tennis elbow treatment.

Then, your doctor may need to do an x-ray or MRI to rule out any bone problem or tissue damage.

Make an appointment for tennis elbow symptoms and diagnosis

UPMC Sports Medicine has experts skilled in diagnosing and treating elbow injuries.

To make an appointment or learn more about tennis elbow symptoms, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

Learn more about tennis elbow symptoms and tests

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Tennis Elbow Treatment

The goal of how to treat tennis elbow is to reduce inflammation and pain.

Nonsurgical tennis elbow treatments

The first steps of tennis elbow treatment include:

  • Resting your elbow and applying ice. Put an ice pack on your elbow every 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day.
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief.
  • Doing some stretching exercises.

Your doctor may also suggest other nonsurgical tennis elbow treatments such as:

  • Cortisone shots to help relieve elbow pain and inflammation.
  • Platelet rich plasma (PRP) shots.
  • Counterforce strap.
  • Physical therapy.
  • A brace around your forearm, for more severe tennis elbow pain.

Tennis elbow surgery and rehab

In cases where nonsurgical treatments fail to heal tennis elbow, your doctor may want to perform surgery.

Once the pain subsides, you can do some rehab exercises to strengthen the following arm muscles around the elbow:

  • Wrist extensors and flexors
  • Biceps
  • Triceps

Make an appointment for tennis elbow treatment

To make an appointment for tennis elbow treatment, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

Learn more about tennis elbow treatment

The links below will open a new browser window.

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

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