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How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

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Quick Answer

Tennis elbow is diagnosed with a doctor's evaluation, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). The doctor assesses the patient's lifestyle for occupational risk factors and checks performance on certain tasks using the affected arm. Imaging tests, like an X-ray or MRI, can also be used in diagnosis.

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Technically known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is caused by overuse of the elbow, states the AAOS. Although the condition sometimes develops without a known cause, people in occupations involving frequent use of the elbow joint are most at risk. Athletes, painters, plumbers and carpenters are some groups at risk, according to the AAOS. People over the age of 30 are at increased risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain and burning near the bony, outside knob of the elbow and a weak grip, reminds the AAOS. The condition is most painful when the hands are used. Over 80 percent of patients recover from tennis elbow with non-surgical treatments like rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines or a brace. Patients that do not recover with these treatments may need surgery. However, there is a risk of infection and nerve damage with surgery. Physical therapy is often needed following surgery.

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