By Dr Tony Setiobudi BMedSci, MBBS, MRCS, MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho)

Tennis elbow pain

What is tennis elbow?

A tennis elbow is a condition in which the swelling of the tendon causes pain in the outer part of the elbow or arm. It happens when you damage the tendons that connect the muscles of your forearm to your elbow. The pain may spread down your arm to your wrist.  It is also known as lateral epicondylitis. Tennis elbow is most common in patients between the ages of 30 and 50.


The symptoms of a tennis elbow develop over time. In the early stages, pain may be present with activity and quickly go away with rest, however, as it progresses the pain may be more constant, lasting for longer and occurring with smaller movements. Common signs and symptoms of a tennis elbow include:

The pain usually gets worse when you bend your wrist backward, turn your palm upward, or hold something with a stiff wrist or straightened elbow.


Repetitive use and overuse of the muscles around the elbows is the main cause of developing a tennis elbow. Where you twist or stretch your wrist and hands over and over will stress the tendon, causing tiny tears that in time lead to pain. Tennis elbow is common in tennis players, but is not limited to tennis players, most people get it from other activities that work the same muscles, such as gardening, painting, plumbing, and typing.


Tennis elbow management involves both nonsurgical and surgical methods. Approximately, 80-95% of patients have success with nonsurgical treatment.



Doctors may recommend surgery if the symptoms do not respond to nonsurgical treatment.

It is a same-day surgery, so you can go home after a few hours in the recovery room.

As tennis elbow is a progressive condition that generally does not resolve on its own. Because of this, it is recommended to seek treatment sooner rather than later, as recovery is much faster when started early.

Dr Tony SetiobudiOrthopaedic & Spine Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard), Singapore.