If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your elbow area, you might have a condition called lateral epicondylitis. Often known as tennis elbow, this condition is caused by irritation or inflammation of the tissue that extends from your elbow to the muscles in your forearm.
Here are some things to know about this painful and bothersome condition.
1. You Don’t Have to Play Tennis to Get it
Lateral epicondylitis is called tennis elbow because it is common among tennis players due to the motion of swinging the racket. But you don’t have to play tennis to get the condition. It may affect a lot of people who play tennis, but the majority of people with this condition have never picked up a racket.
Rather, it is common with anyone that participates in repetitive motions that require bending the elbow frequently. You can develop it if you are another type of athlete, like a fencer or baseball player, but you can also get it for a reason that has nothing to do with sports. For example, it is common condition experienced among people in the retail, warehouse, music, and carpentry industries.
2. The Pain isn’t Continuous
Unlike many other injuries of the arm, tennis elbow may not hurt you constantly. There are certain activities that can cause the pain of tennis elbow to worsen, and is one of the things that hand specialists look for when diagnosing this condition.
For example, epicondylitis might cause pain that is much worse when you are trying to squeeze objects or when you are opening jars or lifting something. The activity can be something very simple, such as trying to grasp onto and lift your pen when writing something down.
3. You Probably Don’t Need Surgery
The good news is that if you have this condition of the elbow tissue, you most likely will not need surgery. While you should still talk to your doctor about hand surgery if it isn’t getting better with other treatments, surgery is only needed in a very small percentage of patients. When surgery is needed, it is to help repair the tendon. Non surgical treatment options include changing your activities, wearing a brace, and occupational therapy.
4. Exercise is a Good Treatment Option
Your hand surgeon may recommend exercise in some cases. For example, exercise of the elbow and arm is usually recommended. This helps you to strengthen the arm muscles and reduce irritation of the elbow and forearm tissue by stretching it out on a regular basis. You don’t want to do exercises that cause more pain, but gentle stretching, can definitely help.
5. Diagnosis is About Ruling Out Other Causes
Because many different conditions can cause pain in the elbow region, the tests performed while diagnosing tennis elbow are usually performed to rule out other causes. For example, arthritis is a common cause for similar pain, so your hand doctor might want to perform x-rays to look for signs of arthritis. Some other tests include doing an MRI or an EMG.
If you believe your are suffering from this epicondylitis condition, contact us here at Florida Hand Center for diagnosis and treatment.