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Tennis Elbow


  • Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain in your elbow area. The elbow is a joint where your upper arm bone (humerus) meets your two lower arm bones (radius and ulna). The bones in your elbow joint are held together with ligaments. The muscles that surround your elbow joint are connected to bone by cords of tissue called tendons. There also are blood vessels and nerves found in and near your elbow joint. Caregivers believe tennis elbow is caused by overusing the muscles in your forearm. Fast repeated arm movements can lead to inflammation (swelling) and small tears in your tendon. Overuse of the muscles leading to tennis elbow is common in tennis players and manual labor workers.
    Anatomy of the Arm
  • The pain from tennis elbow is often felt in the area of your lateral epicondyle. The lateral epicondyle is the bony end of your humerus that you can feel on the outer side of your elbow. The tendon that connects your muscles to your lateral epicondyle is the extensor tendon. When you have tennis elbow, you may not be able to move your elbow or arm like you normally do. You may have pain that worsens when moving your hand or wrist, and problems holding or lifting. You may need x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and an ultrasound to diagnose your tennis elbow. Treatments include rest, medicines, elbow supports, physical therapy, and surgery. Treatment may allow you to return to the activities you enjoy, such as sports.



  • Keep a current list of your medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him about any medicine allergies, and if you want to quit taking or change your medicine.
  • Acetaminophen: This medicine can be used to decrease your pain. Taking too much acetaminophen can hurt your liver. Read labels so that you know the active ingredients in each medicine that you take. Talk to your caregiver before taking more than one medicine that contains acetaminophen. Ask your caregiver before taking over-the-counter medicine if you are also taking pain medicine prescribed (ordered) for you.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may help decrease pain and inflammation (swelling). This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.


Your caregiver may suggest you get acupuncture for your injured arm. Acupuncture is a treatment based on a belief that fluids flow through channels in our bodies. Caregivers insert very thin needles just under your skin. This is believed to open the channels allowing fluids to flow better. This treatment may decrease pain and improve healing. Always see a caregiver for this treatment. Do not try to give this treatment to yourself.

Physical therapy:

Your caregiver may have you go to physical therapy. A physical therapist will help you with exercises to stretch and strengthen your tendon. These exercises may also help to decrease your pain. You will need to start slowly and increase your activity as you get stronger. Physical therapy may help you return to your usual activities faster. During physical therapy, you may also have the following:

  • Massage: A caregiver may massage the deep tissues in your elbow and forearm to improve movement and healing.
  • Ultrasound: During an ultrasound, a small plastic or metal tool will be moved around your elbow where you have pain. The tool uses heat to reach your deep tissues and decrease your pain. The heat may also decrease any swelling and help heal your tissues.

Self care:

  • Arm care when wearing a brace or splint: Ask your caregiver how to care for your arm while wearing a brace or splint. Follow your caregiver's instructions on how to bathe while wearing a brace or splint.
  • Ice: Ice causes blood vessels to constrict (get small) which helps decrease swelling and pain. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Put the ice pack on your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes every hour. Use the ice for as long as your caregiver says you should. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite.
  • Rest: You may need to rest your injured arm and avoid activities that cause you pain. Resting your arm allows your tendon and forearm muscles to heal. Ask your caregiver when it is okay to return to your normal activities such as work and sports.

For more information:

Contact the following:

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
    6300 North River Road
    Rosemont , IL 60018-4262
    Phone: 1- 847 - 823-7186
    Web Address:
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address:


  • You have more pain or weakness in your arm, wrist, hand, or fingers.
  • You have new numbness or tingling in your arm, hand, or fingers.
  • Your surgery wounds are red, warm, or swollen.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions about your condition or treatment.


  • You have pus draining from your surgery area.
  • You suddenly have no feeling in your arm, hand, or fingers.
  • You suddenly cannot move your arm, wrist, hand, or fingers.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Tennis Elbow (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

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