You Don’t Have to Play Tennis to Get Tennis Elbow

You Don’t Have to Play Tennis to Get Tennis Elbow

You love being active, but you’re also worried about getting one of those “active” injuries, such as tennis or golfer's elbow, or runner’s knee. Well, these names don't necessarily dictate who gets these conditions.

Golfer’s or tennis elbow, runner’s knee, pitcher’s shoulder — it almost seems like there’s an orthopedic condition associated with all of the great activities you can enjoy.

Here at Spine & Orthopedic Center, Dr. Rajiv Sood and the team consider these names more like risk factors than direct paths, especially if you consider that these paths aren’t the only ones for potential musculoskeletal damage.

To illustrate what we mean, we will focus on tennis elbow in this month’s blog post. In the following, we look at why it’s a risk factor for tennis players and, as importantly, why non-tennis players can also develop this condition.

The mechanics of tennis elbow

The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis, which is a good description if you understand the finer points of elbow anatomy. Each of your elbows brings together three bones, including your:

  1. Humerus (upper arm)
  2. Radius (forearm)
  3. Ulna (forearm)

At the lower end of your upper arm bone, there are bony bumps called epicondyles, where your forearm muscles start. 

When you have tennis elbow, it involves the tendons and muscles that commence at your lateral epicondyle, which controls the extension in your wrist and fingers.

This condition affects about 1%-3% of the population in the United States, typically between the ages of 30 and 50.

Tennis elbow is tendonitis

At its core, tennis elbow is a tendonitis issue, which describes inflammation in your tendons due to repetitive or overuse. When you overuse a tendon, it can develop tiny tears that lead to inflammation. 

In the case of tennis elbow, you strain the extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon, which stabilizes your wrist when you hold your elbow straight. As a result of this tissue damage, you can feel pain on the outside of your elbow, and your grip in that hand might be weaker. 

The tennis court and beyond

The reason why it’s called tennis elbow is that the force of a tennis ball hitting your backhand reverberates up your wrist and into the tendon in question, creating the perfect environment for this type of tendon strain.

That said, there are plenty of other ways in which you can develop this common orthopedic condition, including:

  • Painting
  • Using hand tools
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Gardening
  • Being a dentist

Any activity in which you repetitively overuse the tendon that attaches to the muscles that start at your lateral epicondyle can lead to tennis elbow.

So, if you have pain in your elbow, whether you play tennis or not, the best way to identify the underlying problem is to come see for an evaluation.

To get started, please contact our office in Jonesboro, Georgia, to schedule an appointment.