Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, (technically called lateral epicondylitis), is when your elbow joint gets inflamed. If you have a tennis elbow, you will probably feel the pain coming from the outer side of your elbow, which may get worse when you straighten your arm.  In this article, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and prevention of tennis elbow.  We’ll also discuss treatment options including Chinese Medicine and acupuncture.

Tennis Elbow Symptoms:

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have tennis elbow:

  • A weak grip
  • Pain when opening jars, or making lifting or squeezing motions
  • Pain from the outside of the elbow to the back of the forearm and wrist
  • Elbow pain that gets worse over time

Your doctor will usually be able to tell if you have a tennis elbow by applying pressure to a specific point on your forearm and checking for pain when your wrist is extended.  In some cases, MRI or x-ray scans may be used to rule out other causes of your elbow pain.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow usually occurs due to overuse, or repetitive stress to the forearm muscle.  Activities that may cause repetitive stress to the wrist and forearm include:

  • Racquet sports like tennis
  • Golf
  • Using tools like screwdrivers or computers very often
  • Turning keys often

Overuse of the wrist can cause tiny tears to form in the tendon that joins the forearm muscle to the outside of the elbow.  These tears can lead to pain and inflammation of the elbow, known as the tennis elbow.

Tennis Elbow Treatment

Most of the time tennis elbow can be successfully treated without surgery.  Common treatments include:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Physical therapy/specific exercises
  • Anti-inflammatory medications (like aspirin or ibuprofen)

If your elbow pain doesn’t go away after trying these treatments, surgery may be an option.  This can be done to attach healthy muscle to the bone and remove any dead tissue from the elbow area.  Although tennis elbow surgery is successful most of the time, there is also a risk of complications.

Can I Prevent Tennis Elbow?

To reduce your chances of getting tennis elbow, try some of the following prevention methods:

  • Maintain strength and flexibility of your elbows by doing certain exercises
  • Use proper technique when engaging in sports
  • Rest your elbow if it hurts
  • Apply ice to your elbow after intense physical activity

How Can Chinese Medicine Help?

Chinese Medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat many health problems like tennis elbow.  A major part of Chinese Medicine is acupuncture, which involves placing thin needles into specific points on your body.  These acupoints link to the complex network of energy pathways in your body.  By stimulating these acupoints, your acupuncturist can not only improve blood circulation for healing but can also address any underlying weaknesses in your body.

The major organs in our body have an important part to play in our overall health.  For example, the liver and gallbladder are responsible for detoxification, but also for maintaining healthy tendons and joints.  So, if you have a weak liver or gallbladder, this may be contributing to joint or tendon problems like tennis elbow.  However, acupuncture can help to strengthen organs like the liver and gallbladder, allowing your body to heal conditions like tennis elbow.


Overall, tennis elbow is a painful inflammation of the elbow joint.  Tennis elbow often occurs when you overuse your wrist or forearm, by doing activities like racquet sports or even frequently using tools like screwdrivers.  The tennis elbow often causes pain in the outside of your elbow.  It can usually be treated without surgery by simply resting, icing, and doing physical therapy exercises.  Acupuncture is also a great way to heal problems like tennis elbow, as it can address any deeper underlying issues in the body.


Donohue, M. (2018, September 17). Tennis Elbow. Healthline.

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