7 Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common injury seen in many tennis players and in individuals in other professions as well. It is caused by overuse and often occurs on the dominant arm. The pain occurs due to the tendons being overworked, and because of this, they can become inflamed and cause pain with certain motions. This injury affects the outside of the elbow, and the tendons involved attach the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle in the forearm to the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. The lateral epicondyle is the bony part of the elbow that sticks out.

In tennis, this injury is commonly irritated by improper form and backhand shots, and it can occur more frequently if you have the tendency to grip the racket tightly during shots, which engages this muscle. Tennis elbow can also arise from other repeated shots as well. If you serve with a snapping, turning wrist motion to develop power and spin, it can strain these muscles and tendons. Forehand shots that involve a lot of wrist bend have a similar effect.

1. Elbow Pain

One of the most common symptoms of tennis elbow is pain in the area. Because of overuse, the tendons can develop small tears in them. These small tears can result in weaker tendons, causing certain motions to be much more painful. Some of these motions may include turning a doorknob, using a wrench, holding a cup or glass, shaking hands, writing, fully extending your arm, and others.

Elbow pain is also associated with this injury because there can be an influx of chemicals that cause higher levels of pain in that area. Because the tissues in the elbow are damaged, the nerves in the area can flare up, resulting in increased sensitivity. Nerves are responsible for communicating between the brain and all other parts of the body, and this increased nerve sensitivity can result in extra pain receptors being activated in the elbow.

2. Muscle Pain

Lateral epicondylitis is associated with damage to the elbow tendons, and these tendons are directly connected to the muscles of the forearm. When the tendons become damaged, the muscle often becomes damaged as well. The muscles of the forearm, specifically the ECRB muscle, develop small tears in them due to overuse. These little tears can cause pain in the muscle and can weaken it. This forces the other surrounding muscles to work harder to compensate, which can result in further tears and other muscle pain. The compensation and tears also cause additional swelling, which can further increase muscle pain and soreness.

3. Swelling

When the muscles and tendons in the elbow develop microscopic tears, the body will respond by trying to repair them. It does this by sending additional blood flow, along with a number of chemicals that help to heal the body. Many of these chemicals contain inflammatory markers, which result in swelling, and the extra blood flow contributes to it as well. Because these muscles are used often in a variety of motions in daily life, it can be difficult for the tears to heal. This causes the muscles and tendons to be in a constant state of repair, which continues to cause additional swelling around the elbow.

4. Tenderness

With all the extra inflammation and tissue damage associated with tennis elbow, tenderness to the elbow and surrounding areas is a common symptom. Because the tissues are attempting to heal themselves, the damaged area is often sensitive to the touch. Tenderness can occur in many of areas surrounding the elbow as well. This symptom can also be caused by muscle soreness. Since the tears in the muscles and tendons cause the other muscles to work harder, it can result in soreness and tenderness. Tenderness can result in a large amount of discomfort and can make many everyday activities more uncomfortable and more difficult.

5. Persistent Aching

Persistent aching is another one of the common signs of tennis elbow, and this often comes about due to the heavy amount of use the elbow and arm get each day. The muscles and tendons around the elbow are used for a large number of tasks, and because of this, it is difficult to allow them to rest and let this body part fully heal. Due to the trauma and deterioration that these muscles undergo, it is common for the arm and elbow to ache consistently. The inflammation and other chemicals in the area can also contribute to this symptom.

6. Radiating Pain

Although the primary tendon that is affected by this injury connects directly to the elbow itself, the pain does not always remain localized in that location. As previously mentioned, each tendon connects to the muscle, and when the tendon develops small tears and becomes irritated, the attached muscles are often prone to this as well. Due to the fact that the other muscles in the arm are required to work harder to compensate, guard and protect the elbow to prevent further injury, and can experience overuse, it can cause discomfort in many other areas of the forearm, upper arm, and even up into the shoulder and neck.

7. Weakness of the Forearm

Because tennis elbow occurs due to the muscles being overused, they often begin to break down and can lose some of their strength, especially regarding grip. The pain and inflammation caused by the injury also can make it difficult to use and workout these muscles to rebuild their strength and bring them back to full health. This can further compound this negative effect. Due to the nature of this injury, if the arm begins to lose its strength, this trend often amplifies and will continue to get worse if you to use it often, especially in activities or with motions that cause pain or discomfort.