If you’ve been experiencing pain outside of your elbow, you may have lateral epicondylitis. Also commonly known as “tennis elbow,” this condition is caused by overuse of the muscles and tendons in your forearm. Though it can be painful, lateral epicondylitis is usually treatable with rest, ice, and physical therapy. Keep reading to learn more about lateral epicondylitis and how to find relief from this pesky condition.
What is lateral epicondylitis?
The lateral epicondyle is a hard bone protrusion on the outside of the elbow. It is part of the humerus, the bone of the upper arm. The lateral epicondyle is a common site of pain and tenderness in people who have lateral epicondylitis. The muscles and tendons that are placed to attach to the lateral epicondyle are used to extend the wrist and hand.
These muscles and tendons have a responsibility to be used when we straighten our arms out to the side. When these muscles and tendons are overused, they can become swollen and irritated. This can cause pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow. This pain is also “tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow.” Anyone can come across this condition whenever they put excessive stress on the muscles in the forearm.
Lateral epicondylitis is most common in people who participate in sports that require repetitive use of the forearm muscles, such as tennis or golf. People who work more on laptops, such as typing, can also suffer lateral epicondylitis. It will produce arm pain within the injured tendon with repetitive arm movements.
Causes of lateral epicondylitis
There are several possible causes of lateral epicondylitis, including:
Commonly, overuse injury is the most prevailing cause behind tennis elbow. When you use your arm and hand repeatedly, as in sports or work activities, the muscles and tendons can become irritated and inflamed.
A sudden impact or injury to the arm, such as a fall on your outstretched hand, can cause lateral epicondylitis.
Repetitive stress from activities
They are also known as carpal tunnel syndrome. The repeated use of the hands and wrists can cause the tendons that run along the forearm to become irritated and inflamed.
These are small, bony growths that can form on the elbow joint bones. They can rub against the tendons and muscles, causing irritation and inflammation.
This is a degenerative disease that can affect the body’s joints, including the elbow. Arthritis can cause inflammation and damage the tendons and muscles around the joint.
A rare but possible cause of lateral epicondylitis is an infection in the elbow joint. This can occur after a break in the skin or after surgery.
Symptoms of tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis
Anyone suffering from tennis elbow can feel the following symptoms:
● Lateral elbow pain that radiates from the outside of the elbow to the hand, especially when gripping or twisting something
● Stiffness and difficulty moving the arm
● Weakness in the arm
● Tingling or numbness in the hand
Risk factors of lateral epicondylitis
The detailed risk factors of lateral elbow tendinopathy are as follows:
● Age: This condition is more prevalent in people over 40 years old.
● Gender: it is more common in men than women.
● Previous injury to the elbow can increase the risk of developing lateral epicondylitis.
● Activities that involve repetitive use of the arm and hand: for example, sports such as tennis and golf, or jobs that require repetitive use of the hands, such as typing or using a screwdriver
● Obesity: being overweight can put increased stress on the elbow joint and increase the risk
How is tennis elbow diagnosed?
The doctor may ask about your Lateral epicondylitis symptoms and how they have developed. The doctor will also examine and diagnose through clinical examination. They will also check the affected area for swelling, redness, and tenderness. If the doctor suspects that you have lateral epicondylitis, they may order imaging tests such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging to confirm the diagnosis.
How is lateral epicondylitis treated?
There is not one single answer to this question, as lateral epicondylitis treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition. In many cases, however, sports medicine like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain.
Receiving injections of corticosteroids or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to help reduce pain and inflammation. Other treatments include physical therapy, steroid injections, autologous blood injections, and, in some cases, surgery. It is essential to visit or speak with a doctor to determine the best course of treatment for lateral epicondylitis.
Which therapies can help treat tennis elbow?
Many different therapies can help treat tennis elbow. Some of the most common treatments include:
Taking a break from the activity causing your tennis elbow can help reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process.
It is said that applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Keep applying ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every 2-4 hours.
Some over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, may support reducing pain and inflammation.
Physical therapy is recommended as it may help to strengthen the muscles around your elbow and improve your range of motion. Physical therapy usually includes a combination of exercises, stretches, and treatments.
Your physical therapist will create a treatment plan specifically for you that will help to improve your symptoms. Some of the most common exercises and therapies include:
Your physical therapist may prescribe various exercises to help improve your strength and range of motion. These exercises may include isometric exercises, stretching exercises, strengthening exercises for extensor carpi radialis brevis, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy.
Tennis elbow Surgery
Orthopedic and trauma surgery is essential in severe tennis elbow cases that do not respond to other treatments.
Can Extracorporeal shock wave therapy treat chronic elbow tendinosis?
Based on the evidence, Extracorporeal shock wave therapy may effectively treat lateral epicondylitis. This way or method of therapy uses sound waves to stimulate the healing process and reduce pain.
How to prevent chronic tennis elbow?
One suggested way to prevent tennis elbow is to maintain good form when playing tennis. It means keeping your wrist straight and not bending it too far back when hitting the ball. It would help if you also use a racket with an appropriate grip size to not have to grip the racket too tightly.
In addition, be sure to warm up and stretch before playing and take breaks as needed to avoid overuse of the muscles and tendons in your arm. If you start to experience pain in your elbow, wrist, or forearm, rest the affected area and see a doctor if the pain continues to appear.
Overall, lateral epicondylitis results from the overuse of the muscles and tendons that attach to the outside of your elbow. The good part of the news is that it can be treated with rest, ice, and physical therapy. In most cases, people who undergo treatment for lateral epicondylitis experience relief from their symptoms and can return to their normal activities.