Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
You don't have to play tennis to develop tennis elbow. It can be due to any movement that puts excessive force on the wrist muscles. Tennis elbow refers to elbow pain as the result of an injury to the elbow tendons that bend and straighten the wrist. Hold your hand down with your thumb on the outside (lateral to your hand) and your elbow straight. Pain on the lateral (outside) part of your elbow is called backhand tennis elbow. Pain on the medial (inside) part is called forehand tennis elbow.
The muscles and tendons are damaged when the force on them is greater than their inherent strength. If the ball hits your racquet with a force that is greater than the strength of your wrist muscles, your wrist tendons tear. In the same way, carrying a suit case, twisting a screwdriver, turning a stuck faucet, or trying to open a jammed door can tear your wrist muscles and cause tennis elbow.
If you have tennis elbow, rest the injured part until you can bend your wrist against mild resistance without feeling any pain in your elbow. Then you should start a program of progressive resistance exercise to strengthen your wrist muscles. Sit in a chair with a light weight in your hand, Place your arm so that it rests touching the table from your wrist to your elbow. If you have forehand tennis elbow, your palm should be up. If you have backhand tennis elbow, the palm should be down. Then slowly raise and lower the weight by bending and straightening your wrist in three sets of ten, every other day. Stop if you feel pain.