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What is tennis elbow?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


Tennis elbow can be painful and can stop you from using your arm normally. But there's a good chance your elbow will get better by itself with time. There are treatments that can help with the symptoms.

We've brought together the best research about tennis elbow and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Tennis elbow is a pain or soreness on the outside of your elbow.

tennis-elbow_default.jpgIt happens when you damage the tendons in your lower arm. These tendons attach your muscles to the bone of your elbow. When you move your wrist or hand, the tendons keep the muscles in place.

Tennis elbow often starts for no clear reason. Most people who get tennis elbow have not had a specific injury to their arm or elbow. But many people with tennis elbow often do work or a sporting activity where they move their arm in a repetitive way. [1] This creates tiny tears in the tendon that then become inflamed.

Although playing tennis and other racquet sports such as badminton or squash can lead to tennis elbow, only 1 in 20 people get it this way. [2] Many other things, such as raking leaves, wringing clothes, or using scissors can cause tennis elbow. [3] Some jobs are associated with a higher risk of tennis elbow. These include meat cutting, plumbing, and painting. Research also shows a higher risk of tennis elbow among people whose jobs involve: [4]

  • Using a tool that weighs more than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds)

  • Lifting loads that weigh more than 20 kilograms (44 pounds) at least 10 times a day

  • Doing a repetitive movement for more than two hours a day.

Tennis elbow mostly affects people between ages 30 and 50. [1] But it can happen to anyone.

You usually get tennis elbow in the arm you use most (for example, in the right arm if you are right-handed). You're more likely to get tennis elbow if your forearm muscles aren't fit and you over-exert them.

Doctors sometimes call tennis elbow lateral epicondylitis.



Inflammation is when your skin or some other part of your body becomes red, swollen, hot, and sore. Inflammation happens because your body is trying to protect you from germs, from something that's in your body and could harm you (like a splinter) or from things that cause allergies (these things are called allergens). Inflammation is one of the ways in which your body heals an infection or an injury.

For more terms related to Tennis elbow


For references related to Tennis elbow click here.
Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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