Tennis Elbow Assessment & Diagnosis

The main symptoms of Tennis Elbow include pain about 1 to 2 cm down from the bony part on the outside of the elbow, known as the lateral epicondyle. There are other injuries which may have similar symptoms so it is important to have a correct diagnosis.

A professional therapist will do a full examination which will include previous history, lifestyle as well as a physical examination and special specific tests to help diagnose Tennis elbow.

When testing for the injury, pain is reproduced when pressing just below the outside of the elbow as well as when trying to straighten or extend the hand and fingers against resistance. In addition, there may be associated weakness in the muscles around the forearm / wrist and this may cause difficulty in performing simple tasks such as gripping things, opening a door handle or shaking hands with someone.

How to diagnose Tennis Elbow

After taking a full history from the patient of how the pain started, the first test that the therapist / doctor will do is to assess the strength levels and integrity of the various wrist extensor muscles. More specifically, the therapist may choose to do a lateral epicondylitis test involving middle finger extension as this is often the most sensitive tennis elbow test.

There are other tests that may be performed and these include the 'Mills maneuver' and 'neural tension' tests to assess the nerve tissue in the area. The reason for this is that similar injuries, such as the entrapment of the radial nerve as well as certain neck injuries can present with have similar symptoms.

Finally the therapist may choose to feel (palpate) around the outside of the elbow to see if there are any tender spots particularly in the region of the tendon attachments of the wrist extensor muscles to the lateral epicondyle.

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