Tennis Elbow: Understanding its problems and knowing preventive measures

Dr Kaushal Malhan, Director of Orthopaedic Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, shares his insights about the tennis elbow injury and how it can be prevented

Tennis Elbow is a tender condition that occurs when tendons in the elbow are burdened, usually by the tedious arm and wrist motions. The name is misleading, as most people who have it, did not attain it by playing tennis.

Technically, it is also known as lateral epicondylitis. It is a result of inflammation just above the elbow joint, on the outer side of the arm. Pain can be experienced in other areas of the elbow and forearm.

Often, the development of tennis elbow can be traced to methods of using the forearm muscles, which control the hand and wrist movements. These muscles are used to perform actions like straightening the fingers, bending the wrist upwards and rolling the forearm into a palms-up position.

A sudden impact and even of lesser force, on a repetitive basis, can damage the tissues, in the same way as rope becomes frayed. Without rest and time for heal, strained tendons can become permanently weakened and can be painful; it also weakens the strength of the grip.

Individuals usually ignore the condition for long periods before seeking medical help, mostly because the symptoms are mild and often disappear with a little rest.

Pain relievers can give temporary relief in the initial basis. Doctor’s counsel is sought when the pain starts to affect the work and become intolerable.

About 1% of the cases last more than a year; this occurs in patients who do not respond positively to non-invasive treatment options. For such patients, steroid injections, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections locally or rarely, surgery might be a solution.


Tasks linked with tennis elbow should be identified and modified to reduce the risk of serious injury.

One of the concerns is the overuse of fingers, wrists, and forearms in repetitive work involving forceful movement, awkward postures, and lack of rest.

Avoid jobs that place extreme force, the strain on muscles of the forearm. Timely attention reduces the development of a problem.

The most significant steps in treatment include:

  • Identify problematic activities and avoid them
  • Correction of incorrect postures and motions
  • Use of ice packs or medication such as oral or topical non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as prescribed by your doctor, to reduce the inflammation or pain
  • Exercise regimen such as gentle stretches, eccentric and concentric strengthening
  • Physiotherapy to boost the healing process, restore the elbow to its highest level of function, and assist the person in returning to work

Avoiding activities that cause elbow pain is vital to the treatment of Tennis Elbow. Often known as self-limiting, pain, and discomfort ultimately disappear when people change or avoid activities that cause pain. Support pads and elbow braces may also be worn for short term pain relief.