What is Tennis Elbow?

What is Tennis Elbow?
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury illustration

Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition involving soreness or pain outside the elbow. The pain may extend down the forearm to the wrist and hand. Although common among tennis players, any activity that requires gripping with the hand and repeatedly straining the forearm can cause tennis elbow.

Such movements can injure the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the elbow. This type of injury is very common in carpenters, electricians, and construction workers.

Signs & Symptoms of Tennis Elbow


Pain from tennis elbow typically extends from the outside of the elbow and down the forearm to the wrist. Because the muscles and tendons in the forearm help extend your wrist and fingers, the inflammation and pain may make it difficult to grip an object, turn a doorknob, or hold a cup.

Signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Tenderness and pain in the elbow that worsens over time, usually in the dominant arm (right arm if you are right-handed)
  • Elbow pain that increases in the evening and may make it hard to sleep
  • Soreness that starts in the elbow and travels to the forearm and hand when holding or turning something
  • Weak hand grip

What Causes Tennis Elbow?


Overuse of the forearm muscles, in particular the muscle known as the ECRB (extensor carpi radialis brevis), causes tennis elbow. A tendon attaches this muscle to a bone on the outside of the elbow. Repetitive twisting motions, whether from racquet sports or daily activities, weaken the muscle, leading to microscopic tears in the tendon and inflammation.

Although uncommon, a direct blow to the elbow could also cause tennis elbow. Sometimes no cause can be identified.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Despite the name tennis elbow, any activity that involves repetitive gripping, grasping, or twisting can lead to this injury. The most common risk factors for tennis elbow are:

  • Overuse - Many sports, jobs, and hobbies involve repeated strain on the forearm, including tennis and other racquet sports, golf, weight lifting, swimming, plumbing, painting, carpentry, knitting, typing, gardening
  • Equipment - Improper or ill-fitting sports equipment can strain forearm muscles
  • Technique - Improper technique during sports or using tools like a screwdriver in an awkward position
  • Age - Tennis elbow is most common in people in their 40s, but anyone can develop it
  • History of tendon injuries - Some people are more susceptible to strained or torn tendons
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Tennis Elbow Care

Orthopedists at NewYork-Presbyterian provide expert and personalized care for tennis elbow, beginning with the least invasive approaches to treatment. Contact NewYork-Presbyterian to have your elbow pain evaluated by one of our experienced physicians.