Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition involving the muscles and tendons of the outer forearm, just below the elbow. A tendon is a tough band of tissue that connects muscle to bone. The tendons involved in tennis elbow attach the extensor muscles of the forearm to the prominent outer part of the elbow bone, called the lateral epicondyle. Repeated contraction of the forearm extensor muscles – used when extending the wrist (pulling the hand back, as in the hand signal to stop traffic) and with gripping or twisting movements – can lead to tiny tears in the tendon that cause pain at the lateral elbow. Pain may spread into the forearm and wrist. Despite the name, tennis elbow affects many people who never play tennis.
The exact tendon most commonly involved in tennis elbow connects to a muscle called the extensor carpi radialis brevis. This muscle becomes overused with repetitive arm and wrist movements, such as in painting; using hand tools, such as screwdrivers and hammers; or from long hours of manipulating a computer mouse. In racket sports like tennis, the tendon is overstressed when a player uses an improper grip or backhand technique.
Our Approach to Tennis Elbow
The team at UCSF includes primary care sports medicine doctors; orthopedic surgeons who specialize in sports medicine, including elbow injuries; athletic trainers; and physical therapists. These experts work together to relieve pain and restore mobility, so that patients can return to their normal lives and favorite activities.
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UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.