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Tennis elbow: not just for tennis players!

Tennis elbow, known medically as lateral epicondylitis of the elbow, occurs due to a small tear in the tendon(s) on the outside of the elbow that attach the forearm muscles to the elbow joint. The micro tear and subsequent development of the damaged tissue is due to forceful and repetitive forearm use. Tennis elbow by definition is most commonly associated with tennis, hence its name, but it can occur in any sport or work that requires forceful and/or repetitive forearm usage.

Most tennis elbow diagnoses are not related to actually playing tennis! For example, painters, plumbers, landscapers, butchers, office or house cleaners, assembly-line workers, golfers and baseball players all can develop the condition.

Most people who get tennis elbow are commonly between the ages of 30 and 50, although anyone can get it. Tennis elbow most commonly affects people in their dominant arm (a right-handed person would experience pain in the right arm). Tennis elbow can appear in many different ways. Some people get symptoms gradually after doing the same type of work for several years while others get it suddenly, soon after they start doing a new type of work. Sometimes it can even develop immediately following a single violent muscle exertion.

Tennis elbow can also cause extreme tenderness on the outer side of the elbow. This tenderness becomes painful and the pain may radiate outwards when the wrist and elbow are moved in certain ways. Look out for these symptoms which include: Pain and tenderness over the lateral epicondyle (elbow joint), often radiating down the forearm. Pain is worse on the resisted wrist and finger extension with the elbow in full extension. Initially, symptoms may be activity related but in chronic cases, the pain and tenderness may become constant.