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Tennis Elbow Injury – What Is Tennis Elbow?

tennis elbow injury

Tennis Elbow Injury

It is thought that an Acute Tennis Elbow injury consists of microscopic tears in the attachment of the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis muscle to the bone.
This tearing results in the stimulation of the repair process which increases collagen production and new blood vessel growth.
This increase in blood vessels may explain the Tennis Elbow symptoms as well as a local increase in temperature.

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

In the past it was thought that Tennis Elbow Symptoms were a result of a local inflammatory reaction. However it is now more commonly thought that even acute tendinitis is due to a sudden increase in stress which causes further aggravation of an already degenerated area of tendon.
The thinking is that the elbow symptoms are produced by the new blood vessels and their nerves at the repair site rather than from a local inflammatory response.
That is why it is considered more correct to name Tennis Elbow Injury as Lateral Epicondylosis


Lateral Epicondylitis / Lateral Epicondylosis

These are the medical names that you may see for Tennis Elbow.
Epicondylitis – the “itis” indicates that there is acute inflammation taking place (think of Appendicitis).
Epicondylosis – the “osis” refers to a more chronic and degenerative condition.

Both these terms refer to the Lateral Epicondyle which is a raised area of bone on the upper arm bone or Humerus. If you look at the diagram of the back of the right arm opposite you can see that the lower end of the Humerus widens out to form the upper portion of the Elbow joint.
There are two epicondyles one on the inside (medial – labelled A) and one on the outside (lateral – B).

The lateral epicondyle is where the Tennis Elbow muscles (Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis, Extensor Digitorum and possibly Supinator) attach.
The Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis muscle is the main culprit in Tennis Elbow.
It is degeneration of the tendon attachment to the Lateral Epicondyle that causes the pain and disability.

Right ECRB tennis elbow injury

Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis

This muscle has its upper attachment to the Lateral Epicondyle, (B in the diagram), the Radial Ligament and surrounding tissues.

It passes down the forearm deep to the Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus and Extensor Digitorum muscles and lies under the skin in the lower half of the forearm (M in the diagram opposite).

The muscle becomes tendon in the lower forearm and the tendon crosses the wrist and attaches to the base of the 2nd and 3rd Metacarpal bones in the hand (I in the diagram).

The action of the muscle is to help to extend the wrist and deviate it towards the thumb side. (Extension and Radial Deviation)


You now understand:-

  • that Tennis Elbow is micro-tears in Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis tendon
  • that Lateral Epicondylitis and Epicondylosis are the same as Tennis Elbow
  • where the Lateral Epicondyle is on the Humerus
  • where Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis attaches and its actions

For more information see Tennis Elbow – Get to Grips



Back to Tennis Elbow Top 10 Questions

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