Lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow, is an elbow injury that occurs as a result of the overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm and elbow. The pain associated with this condition affects the lateral epicondyle, the area where the tendons of the forearm connect with the bony outer portion of the elbow. Repetitive movement and constant use during certain types of activities may put excessive strain on the elbow tendons. Tennis elbow may occur in tennis players or individuals who participate in certain athletic activities, but may also occur in people who have jobs that involve repetitive motions of the wrist and arm, such as carpenters, or people in construction related trades.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
The symptoms of tennis elbow affect the inside of the elbow, and may include:
- Forearm weakness
- Pain when the wrist is extended
- Pain that spreads from the outside of the elbow into the forearm and wrist
Pain may occur when performing even simple tasks such as turning a doorknob or shaking hands.
Diagnosis of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is diagnosed through a physical examination of the arm and elbow, and a review of the patient's medical history. To assess pain, pressure may be applied to the elbow and the individual may be asked to move the arm, wrist and elbow in different ways. Additional diagnostic tests may include:
- MRI scan
These tests may be performed to rule out other conditions that may be responsible for causing elbow pain.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
The initial pain caused by tennis elbow can often be managed with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medication. In many cases, tennis elbow heals on its own. Cases of tennis elbow that do not respond to conservative measures may require additional treatment that may include:
- Physical therapy
- Forearm brace
Severe, persistent cases of tennis elbow may require surgery. Surgical procedures may be performed to remove damaged tissue, remove bone spurs or to split the tendons to alleviate pressure.