Tennis elbow, aka ‘lateral epicondylitis/lateral epicondylalgia’, is a painful condition of the forearm/elbow caused by overuse. Tennis elbow specifically involves the area where the extensor muscles and tendons of the forearm attach to a bony prominence called the lateral epicondyle of the elbow.
The symptoms of tennis elbow develop gradually. In most cases, the pain begins as mild and slowly worsens. There is usually no specific injury associated with the start of symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow
- Weak grip strength
The symptoms are often worsened with repetitive forearm activity, such as holding a racquet, turning a wrench, or shaking hands.
Nerve entrapment can be caused by prolonged pressure on a nerve. ‘Radial tunnel syndrome’ can be caused by compression of the deep branch of the radial nerve as it travels through the forearm muscles. Inflammation can develop if the nerve is pinched anywhere along the radial tunnel with repetitive forearm rotation activities. Radial tunnel syndrome can occur with repetitive use of the forearm and wrist muscles, or from direct trauma to the back of the forearm.
Tennis elbow and radial tunnel syndrome have similar symptoms: pain at or around the lateral epicondyle; aching in the back of the forearm along the extensor muscles; and increased pain with forearm rotation and gripping. Tennis elbow pain is typically located on or just below the lateral epicondyle, while radial tunnel pain is usually slightly farther down the forearm.