Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis): Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow refers to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow caused by inflammation of one of the tendons that join the forearm muscles to the elbow. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from overuse. Pain can be felt in the forearm and wrist as well

What are the symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

The symptoms of Tennis Elbow are similar to those of Golfer's Elbow. The difference is that Tennis Elbow causes pain on the outside of the elbow. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain spreading down the arm towards the wrist.
  • Worsening pain when using the forearm such as bending, writing, holding a racquet, turning a wrench, or fully extending the arm.

What are the risk factors of Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbow is typically caused by the motion of a tennis downstroke. The muscle of the forearm becomes weakened from overuse. Small tears can form in the tendon fibres that attach the muscle to the elbow, leading to pain and inflammation.

As the elbow bends and straightens, the muscle rubs against bony bumps in the forearm, which can cause gradual wear and tear of the muscle over time.

Risk factors of developing tennis elbow include:

  • Occupation: Tennis Elbow can happen to anyone who uses their forearm muscle regularly. It is common in painters, plumbers, carpenters, cooks, and butchers.
  • Age: Common in people aged 30-50 years old.
  • Racquet sports: Those active in racquet sports such as badminton, tennis, or squash are at a greater risk of tennis elbow, especially if improper stroke techniques are used.

How is Tennis Elbow diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made based on various investigations. Your doctor will first evaluate your medical history and symptoms before conducting a physical examination.

Imaging tests such as an X-ray may be ordered so your doctor can confirm the diagnosis while ruling out other injuries associated with the elbow.

How is Tennis Elbow treated?

Non-surgical treatments & therapies

  • Rest with no sports or heavy work activities for several weeks.
  • A brace centred over the back of your forearm, which may help to relieve symptoms by resting the muscles and tendons.
  • Check your racquet for correct fit to prevent symptoms from recurring.
  • Rehabilitation and pain relief exercises for tennis elbow.


Medications such as painkillers or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain and swelling.

Ultrasonic tenotomy (TENEX)

This is a non-surgical procedure that removes damaged tissue on the tendons. The doctor will insert a special needle into the damaged part of the tendon. Ultrasonic energy will liquify the damaged tissue, which will then be suctioned out.

Steroid injection

If you are not responding well to the treatments above, your doctor may treat your elbow with corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.

Surgical procedures

Surgery is usually only considered if all other treatments have not been successful.

  • Open surgery: The surgeon will make a cut above the bone on the side of your elbow to remove the damaged parts of the tendon.
  • Arthroscopy: In this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon will make a few tiny cuts on the skin over your elbow. Small instruments and a camera will be inserted into the holes to guide the surgeon to remove the damaged parts of the tendon.

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Early detection of Tennis Elbow makes it easier to treat the condition with effective and appropriate treatment. A dedicated and expert team of Orthopaedic specialists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance.

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have concerns or questions regarding Tennis Elbow. We assure you the best possible care tailored to your specific needs.

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

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