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Tennis Elbow

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Exams and Tests

Your doctor can usually determine if you have tennis elbow by talking to you about the history of your symptoms, daily activities, and past injuries. You'll have a physical exam too.

X-rays aren't usually needed for diagnosis of tennis elbow but can sometimes rule out other causes of elbow pain, such as arthritis, signs of another type of injury, or a buildup of calcium crystals in a tendon or ligament. X-rays can show unusual bone structure that might cause soft-tissue damage (such as to tendons or muscles), but they don't show soft tissues very clearly. If your elbow pain isn't severe and can't be linked to a specific injury, your doctor may recommend starting treatment without doing X-rays to see whether the problem clears up in a few weeks.

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If nonsurgical treatment (such as rest, the use of ice and anti-inflammatory drugs, rehabilitation exercises, and changing or stopping certain activities) hasn't helped relieve elbow pain, or if the diagnosis is unclear, other tests may be helpful.

  • MRI can show problems in soft tissues such as tendons and muscles.
  • Arthroscopy allows the doctor to see inside the elbow and get information that can be used with what he or she knows from your X-rays or physical exam. (Doctors can surgically treat tennis elbow with arthroscopy.)
  • Bone scans are done in rare cases. They can show stress fractures in the bone or certain disease conditions, such as a tumor or infection.

If your doctor thinks you have nerve damage, electromyogram and nerve conduction tests can check how well your nerves are working.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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