Acute Tennis Elbow is an injury to the muscles that extend the wrist and fingers. The site of injury is typically the lateral epicondyle, a bony bump on the outside of the elbow where these muscles attach.
Tennis Elbow symptoms that have lasted more than 6 weeks are considered to be sub-acute and beyond three months, as chronic tennis elbow.
What are Tennis Elbow Symptoms?
Typically the Tennis Elbow sufferer will experience pain when performing gripping tasks or resisted wrist/finger extension. Pain can also be present when the muscles are stretched. There will be tenderness directly over the bony epicondyle, and there may be trigger points in the wrist muscles.
Some sufferers will also have neck stiffness and tenderness, as well as signs of nerve irritation. Most elbow movements will be pain-free, despite that being the area of pain.
What Causes Acute Tennis Elbow?
Acute Tennis Elbow is caused by damaged muscle tissue at the point it anchors to the arm bone at the elbow. It occurs when more force is applied to an area than the normal healthy tissues can handle.
Common Tennis Elbow Causes include:
- Unaccustomed hand use. eg painting a fence, hammering, lots of typing.
- Excessive gripping or wringing activities
- Poor forearm muscle strength or tight muscles
- Poor technique (this may be a poor tennis shot)
In some cases such as Chronic Tennis Elbow, this can occur due to the soft tissues being in poor health, which are easily injured. Inflammation follows the injury, which leads to swelling and elbow pain.
Referred Pain from your Neck can mimic Tennis Elbow
A significant percentage of tennis elbow sufferers may feel pain in the lateral elbow, but not actually be experiencing tennis elbow. There is a high incidence of lateral elbow pain that is referred to your elbow from a cervical spine (neck) injury.
The most common neck joint that refers to your lateral elbow is C5/6, which transmit their pain signals along the radial nerve.