Tennis elbow is the common name given to a condition known as lateral epicondylitis. Lateral epicondylitis results from overusing muscles in the arm and forearm. It is usually caused by repeatedly performing a specific motion (such as a tennis backswing), and results in elbow pain that can worsen gradually if not properly treated.
According to MayoClinic.com, tennis elbow is caused by "repeated contraction of the forearm muscles" leading to "inflammation or a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bone at the outside of your elbow." The sport of tennis is one common culprit, but any movement that is repeated in a similar fashion can result in lateral epicondylitis.
MayoClinic.com states that the symptoms of tennis elbow include pain from the outside of the elbow through the forearm and wrist, forearm weakness, pain when performing actions such as turning a doorknob or shaking someone's hand, or the inability to hold onto objects like coffee cups.
In many cases, doctors can make the diagnosis based off the patient's description of his symptoms as well as a basic physical examination of the affected region. Sometimes, however, an x-ray or an MRI is needed to rule out other possible causes of the pain and inflammation.
In most cases, lateral epicondylitis can be treated with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication. Sometimes light exercise and protective braces can help, and in rare cases, doctors recommend the use of corticosteroids or surgery.
According to MayoClinic.com, fixing poor technique can go a long way toward preventing tennis elbow injuries. Tennis players might want to consult with a coach to make sure that they are performing their swing correctly. They should also consider warming up before playing and icing their elbows after playing.