Causes of tennis elbow include any activities that rely on repetitive gripping motions or arm movements, especially movements that use the first two fingers and thumb of either hand, explains WebMD. Tennis, racquetball and other sports that rely on grip, such as weight-lifting and fencing, may cause tennis elbow. Non-sports causes include painting, typing and knitting.
Tennis elbow affects the tendons, which are bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone. Repeated gripping and raising of the arm can strain the tendons and cause small tears in the connective tissue, explains Mayo Clinic. Besides the increased rates among athletes, certain professions, such as carpentry, cooking and painting, also have higher rates of tennis elbow. Age is a factor; the condition is most common in those older than 30 and younger than 50.
Symptoms include pain when activating the tendons in everyday motions, such as making a fist, shaking hands, or gripping and turning a doorknob, reports Mayo Clinic. People with pain during these activities should see a doctor, advises WebMD. Doctors diagnose tennis elbow by asking the patient about the pain, conducting a physical exam, manipulating the affected arm, and using X-rays or MRI scans if necessary.
Tennis elbow usually improves on its own, according to Mayo Clinic. Rest, ice and ibuprofen can minimize pain and encourage healing, while improving technique and refining the movements that led to tennis elbow are long-term ways of managing the condition.