When elbow pain is more than just ‘Tennis elbow’…

Lateral epicondylitis, often called “Tennis elbow” is a very common cause of elbow pain in amateur athletes.  It is a general overuse injury to the tendons that control wrist movement and occurs on the outside of the elbow.  Similar pain on the inside of the elbow is called medial epicondylitis or “Golfer’s elbow”.  This type of injury typically has point tenderness and pain that worsens with activity. Treatment is usually conservative with rest, NSAIDS and alternating ice and heat. However, this doesn’t mean you should skip the visit to your doctor because elbow pain has many causes.

Epicondylitis – can become chronic and may lead to nerve damage and weakness or numbness in the hand and forearm.

Triceps Tendonitis similar to epicondylitis, but occurs when extending the arm. Could become chronic and lead to weakness.

Arthritis in the forms of osteo, rheumatoid, or septic can all cause elbow pain and are treated very differently.

Supinator syndrome – Might cause pain when hand is palm up and can cause nerve damage and loss of feeling.

Fracture or dislocation– Can occur in any of the three bones, the humerus, radius, or ulna, that articulate at the elbow. If not treated properly may lead to loss of motion strength or nerve damage.

These are just some of the things your doctor will evaluate when you ask about your elbow pain because it isn’t always from ‘golf’ or ‘tennis’.

F. Ashton Taylor, MS4, MWU AZCOM

Dave Carfagno, CO, CAQSM Scottsdale Sports Medicine


Anderson, Bruce C, MD, ‘Evaluation of Elbow Pain in Adults’, UpToDate, October 6, 2015