Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis); Causes, Symptoms & Best Treatment Options

More than 200,000 cases of tennis elbow are reported in the US per year.  Tennis elbow is treatable by a medical professional and is usually self-diagnosable. Lab tests or imaging are not required and recovery is medium-term: resolves within months.


Muscle injuries are a common occurrence in our daily lives. We use our muscles to do both complex and simple tasks, and excessive or incorrect use can make injury more likely. In fact, one area of medicine is called “sports medicine,” and it deals with chronic illnesses and injuries that are more commonly associated with sports but can also happen in everyday situations.

Tennis Elbow: What is it and how does it occur?

Tennis Elbow: How Does it Occur?

To understand what tennis elbow is, we have to take a closer look at the anatomy of our elbows. The elbow is the joint connecting our upper arm to the forearm, and its movement is controlled by a set of powerful muscles. The elbow has only two movements, which are flexion and extension. The main flexor of our elbow is the biceps muscle, and the main extensor is the triceps muscle, found at the back of our arms.

The upper bone of the arm is called the humerus, and at its lower end, there are two small protrusions called epicondyles, the one that is outwards is called the lateral epicondyle. The lateral epicondyle is the site of many muscles that control the wrist and forearm and is commonly used when playing some sports such as tennis and fencing, or in some manual jobs such as carpenters, blacksmiths, and painters.

In general, tennis elbow occurs in people who repeatedly extend their wrists, which causes small, microscopic injury of the muscle fibers responsible for wrist extension, and pain ensues. Tennis elbow is not a simple muscle injury, however, and inflammation is not extensive as in cases of an acute muscle sprain. It results from repeated overuse of a group of muscles that causes their degeneration and weakness.

Let’s see the symptoms next.

Written by Greg M. Wilcox

With a background in medical research, I'm dedicated to unraveling the complexities of health and nutrition in a way that's easy to understand and implement. From debunking myths to sharing science-backed insights, my goal is to guide you on a journey towards optimal well-being.