Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, rowing elbow, or lateral epicondylitis to give it itís medical name (meaning inflammation of the outer part of the elbow), is a fairly common condition affecting about four adults per thousand annually.

Symptoms include pain over the outer side of the elbow which may be worse on gripping or lifting any object such as a kettle or racquet handle.

The cause of tennis elbow is usually, but not always, obvious and as well as racquet sports include using a screwdriver, painting and even lifting and carrying suitcases.

In preventing the condition, particular attention should be paid to equipment and coaching or training.  Prolonged use of a heavy racquet may cause problems and if the racquet handle is too big or too small, extra effort has to be put into gripping and this may affect stroke play.  When buying a new racquet ideally discuss this with a coach beforehand or talk to someone in the shop who really knows about it.  You need to consider grip size see below, balance and weight of the racquet, size of the racquet and, nowadays with modern tennis racquets, their degree of flexibility.  If in doubt about the size of the grip that you require, buy one that is slightly too small because it is always possible to build the grip size up.

Once you start to get symptoms, try not to ignore it.  Rest, particularly early on, may cause the pain to resolve but you should also consider taking advice from a tennis coach and/or sports physiotherapist.  If the condition is not resolving you may need to seek medical advice.  The options for treatment would then include taking non steroidal anti inflammatories, such as Ibuprofen, or a steroid injection into the elbow.  Both of these options should be accompanied by rest. 

One should always bear in mind that medical intervention may cause problems or side effects, for example an injection will be painful at the time and for a few days afterwards.  There is always a risk of introducing infection and the steroid may cause damage to the overlying skin.  Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs also have potential side effects.

Remember, prevention is better than cure and if you do start to experience symptoms, early rest and seeking advice from an expert may help the problem resolve rapidly.

Grip Size

Holding an eastern forehand grip (the palm is placed against the same bevel as the string face), you should be able to fit the index finger of your non-hitting hand in the space between your ring finger and palm. If there isn't enough room for your index finger, the grip is too small. If there is space between your finger and palm, the grip is too big. A too-small grip requires more muscle strength to keep  the racquet from twisting in your hand. Prolonged use of a grip that's too small can contribute to tennis elbow problems. A grip that's too large inhibits wrist snap on serves, makes changing grips more difficult and also requires more muscle strength. Prolonged use of a grip that's too big can also contribute to tennis elbow problems.



Further information

This article published on

Next review date


Sports injuries

Areaof the body

Male or female?


  Home | Terms & conditions | Privacy policy | Site map
Owned and Managed by StudentHealth Ltd