Tennis Elbow Physical Exams

Tennis elbow occurs when repetitive motions damage the tendon that connects muscles in the forearm to the elbow. This injury is common in athletes and in people whose work require strenuous physical activity. Tennis elbow is easily treatable and normally goes away on its own.

Your doctor may conduct a physical exam if methods like rest, taking over-the-counter pain medications, and icing the wounded area prove ineffective. He or she may look for the following symptoms:


  • Tendon, nerve, or vascular problems: These issues may cause pain, weakness, or tingling in the muscles and tendons in the forearm and elbow.
  • Problems in the arms: Tennis elbow may cause pain, inflexibility, or decreased range of motion in the arms when flexed or moved.
  • Neck pain: Nerve issues in the elbow that sometimes accompany tennis elbow may sometimes be caused by nerve issues in the neck.


Physical exams are a good idea when pain and other symptoms of tennis elbow persist after several weeks of at-home treatment like rest or icing the affected area. These tests normally do not cause any further issues in the elbow, but sometimes they can exacerbate existing symptoms and illuminate signs of abnormal symptoms. Normal and abnormal results from a physical exam include:


Physical exams usually do not cause any complications. Normally, a physical examination will lead the doctor to recommended at-home treatments and rest to restore the area to its former strength and flexibility.


Abnormal results from a physical exam that may warrant other, more intensive methods of treatment include:

  • Inability to exercise full range of motion
  • Tenderness in the elbow
  • Pain in the forearm and elbow while resting
  • Grinding feeling when the elbow is in motion
  • Difficulty pinching with the fingers, which could be a sign of nerve damage
  • Decreased sensation in the elbow, forearm, hand, and fingers

Treatment normally entails rest, icing the affected area, and taking over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and swelling. Treatment options are available for more advanced cases of tennis elbow, including physical therapy, immobilization methods, and surgery to remove damaged tissue.