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Acing the pain: All about tennis elbow

Acing the pain: All about tennis elbow

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a strain of the tendons situated in the elbow joint. It can lead to chronic pain if ignored
In September 2012, the Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar is seen walks back to the pavilion during the Test against New Zealand in Bengaluru, wearing a tennis elbow band on his right arm.
This photojournalist clicked Sachin Tendulkar, wearing a tennis elbow band on his right arm, walking back to the pavilion during the India-New Zealand Test in Bangalore in September 2012. (Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health)

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a common overuse injury that affects people across all age groups. As the name suggests, it was first observed among those who play racquet sports. However, it has nothing to do with sports, and can even affect the average active and non-active individual.

Tennis elbow pain is primarily felt on the outer side of the elbow and can range from mild to chronic. While the pain is centered on the elbows, it is caused by the overuse of wrist joints.

Experts speak to Happiest Health about this condition and how it can be managed and treated effectively.

Causes of tennis elbow

“Though the condition is called tennis elbow, we see more cases in non-tennis playing individuals,” shares Vimal Sharma, senior physiotherapist, founder and director of Dr Vimal’s Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic, Delhi. “Athletes engaging in racquet sports like tennis or badminton, as well as cricketers and even professionals such as dentists, carpenters, painters and goldsmiths are prone to developing tennis elbow. The injury is caused due to the repetitive use of the wrist. The tendons which move our fingers and wrists have a common origin in the elbow joint. So, the pain is felt on the outer side of the elbow.”

Tennis elbow is also linked with diabetes, and the connection is commonly observed among older people.

Symptoms of tennis elbow

 The most common symptoms of tennis elbow are:

  • Mild or localized pain on the outer side of the elbow. If ignored, it can progress to chronic pain.
  • Difficulty and pain while performing day-to-day activities like lifting glasses and locking or unlocking a doorknob.
  • In extreme cases, the pain becomes severe, resulting in difficulty even while extending the arm.
  • The pain may extend even to the forearms and wrists.

Treating tennis elbow

It requires six to eight weeks of time to treat tennis elbow, with physiotherapy sessions being the cornerstone of the process. “Treating tennis elbow is a bit difficult as we use our wrist day in and day out,” informs Sharma. “Rest is important for healing. It is crucial to avoid activities with the affected arm. You can also use a tennis elbow band to support the joint and the muscles around it if needed. Moreover, physiotherapy sessions are of utmost importance.”

Some may seek quick relief and use steroid shots or painkillers (NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to manage the pain. “People look for shortcuts in treatment,” says Sharma. “A steroid shot is a potent anti-inflammatory, so it may provide some relief initially. But the issue worsens and crops up again in two to four months.” Further, he reveals that NSAIDs should be taken only for the first five to six days. Prostaglandins are responsible for the healing process, whereas these drugs act as inhibitors for the same and hamper recovery.

For temporary pain relief, zn ice pack can be applied to the affected area.


  • The tendons responsible for wrist and finger movement have their origin in the elbow joint. Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is caused due to overuse of the wrist joint.
  • The use of NSAIDs should not go beyond five to six days as these drugs are prostaglandin inhibitors, which ultimately affect the healing process.
  • If required, one can use a tennis elbow band to support the affected area.

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