Symptoms and causes


The pain associated with tennis elbow may radiate from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist. Pain and weakness may make it difficult to:

  • Shake hands or grip an object
  • Turn a doorknob
  • Hold a coffee cup

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor if self-care steps such as rest, ice and use of over-the-counter pain relievers don't ease your elbow pain and tenderness.


Tennis elbow is an overuse and muscle strain injury. The cause is repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist. The repeated motions and stress to the tissue may result in a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bony prominence at the outside of your elbow.

As the name suggests, playing tennis — especially repeated use of the backhand stroke with poor technique — is one possible cause of tennis elbow. However, many other common arm motions can cause tennis elbow, including:

  • Using plumbing tools
  • Painting
  • Driving screws
  • Cutting up cooking ingredients, particularly meat
  • Repetitive computer mouse use

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of tennis elbow include:

  • Age. While tennis elbow affects people of all ages, it's most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Occupation. People who have jobs that involve repetitive motions of the wrist and arm are more likely to develop tennis elbow. Examples include plumbers, painters, carpenters, butchers and cooks.
  • Certain sports. Participating in racket sports increases your risk of tennis elbow, especially if you employ poor stroke technique.