Skip to main content

Causes - Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow is mostly caused by overusing your forearm due to a repetitive or strenuous activity.

It can also sometimes occur after banging or knocking your elbow.

If the muscles in your forearm are strained, tiny tears and inflammation can develop near the bony lump (lateral epicondyle) on the outside of your elbow.

You may get tennis elbow if your forearm muscles are not used to doing a certain activity, such as gardening or decorating. However, even if you use your forearm muscles frequently, it can still happen.

Activities that can cause tennis elbow

You can develop tennis elbow by doing any form of activity that involves repeatedly twisting your wrist and bending your elbow or using your forearm muscles. Examples include:

  • playing racquet sports (tennis, badminton or squash) or sports that involve throwing (javelin or discus)
  • using hand tools repeatedly (gardening shears, screwdriver or scissors)
  • using tools while decorating, plumbing or bricklaying
  • activities that involve fine, repetitive hand and wrist movements (typing or sewing)
  • activities that involve repeatedly bending the elbow (playing the violin)

Playing racquet sports increases your risk of developing tennis elbow, particularly if you play for the first time in a long time. However, despite its name, only 5 out of 100 people actually get tennis elbow from playing racquet sports.

Page last reviewed: 10 November 2020
Next review due: 10 November 2023