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04 May 2022

What is tennis elbow? Tennis elbow symptoms, signs, & treatments

symptoms 3 minutes reading time

If you’re experiencing pain on the outer (lateral) side of your upper arm, near the elbow, you may be suffering from a painful condition called tennis elbow. Although tennis elbow can be uncomfortable to experience, it is rarely serious, and you can often alleviate pain and lessen the severity of your symptoms with adequate rest and some other helpful treatments.

To discover whether you may be suffering from tennis elbow, read more below or visit your physician. If you need help locating a provider near you, use scan.com’s scan center search tool to find a reputable scan provider in your area.

What is tennis elbow?

Lateral epicondylitis, also commonly referred to as tennis elbow, is a painful condition caused by trauma to the elbow or overuse of the elbow.1 This condition causes pain on the outside of the upper arm and near the elbow. Tennis elbow tends to occur because of repeated stress or trauma inflicted on the elbow’s tendons, which can sometimes result from repeated use of the forearm muscles.

The tendon that often contributes to tennis elbow pain is the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon. This tendon may develop micro-tears in the case of tennis elbow, causing pain and irritation.

Tennis elbow symptoms & signs

If you’re wondering whether you have tennis elbow, there are a few telling symptoms that may help you figure it out. Remember, however, that only a physician can diagnose your condition. Make sure to see your family doctor or other healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms so that they can make a medical diagnosis and help you with a treatment plan.

Common symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Achy or burning pain along the outside of the forearm and/or elbow.
  • Pain that spreads to your wrist.
  • Pain in the forearm, elbow, or wrist that persists at rest.
  • Pain when attempting to grip objects.
  • Weakened grip.

Who gets tennis elbow? Tennis elbow risk factors

Tennis elbow is common in both men and women and usually occurs in people between 30 to 50. People who play racket sports may also be more susceptible to developing this condition. Other risk factors may include:2

  • Improperly fitting or strung tennis rackets.
  • Hitting a ball off-centered on the racket.
  • Weak shoulders.
  • Weak wrist muscles.
  • Improper backhand stroke in tennis and other related racket sports.

What causes tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is caused by a variety of movements and other factors (and, no, it isn’t always caused by playing tennis). However, tennis is one of the most common sports associated with this condition. The shock of the tennis ball hitting the racket in a tennis player’s backhand position is often the culprit of tennis elbow–it can cause the tendons that roll over your elbow to become damaged. Other racket sports are also common causes of tennis elbow.

People who make repetitive movements with their hands and forearms on a regular basis are also vulnerable to developing tennis elbow (think dentists, painters, hairdressers, musicians, etc.).

Tennis elbow diagnosis & treatments

To diagnose tennis elbow, your physician may test you using the patient-rated tennis elbow evaluation, which measures your likelihood of having tennis elbow. Or, they may recommend that you get an MRI scan of your elbow, which has shown to be effective in identifying tears in the tendons.3

If you’re concerned that you may be suffering from tennis elbow, don’t worry--there are many ways you can treat this condition. Most treatments for tennis elbow are non-invasive and consist of adequate rest, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, physical therapy, and working to prevent future instances of tennis elbow. Sometimes steroid injections can ease elbow pain that results from persistent tennis elbow. Only rarely does tennis elbow require surgery.

To find an MRI or other type of medical imaging scan in your area, be sure to use scan.com’s easy scan search tool. You can use this tool to find the best MRI and diagnostic imaging centers in your area for your situation and specific needs.


  1. medlineplus.gov: Tennis elbow

  2. hopkinsmedicine.org: Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

  3. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Patients With Chronic Lateral Epicondylitis

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