Do I Have Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)?

You’ve probably heard of tennis elbow. The technical name for this painful condition is lateral epicondylitis. Pursuant to its namesake, the condition can develop as a result of playing tennis, or other types of racquet sports, such as racquetball.

Besides playing tennis, other activities can put you at risk for lateral epicondylitis. Baseball players, golfers, and bowlers are also susceptible to developing the condition. Some people develop it as a result of the work that they do. For example, plumbers, landscapers, gardeners, office or home cleaners, assembly-line workers, mechanics, and carpenters are also at risk for getting the condition.

Essentially, anyone who participates in work, hobby, or recreational activities that uses repetitive elbow, wrist, arm, or hand movement, particularly when tightly gripping an object, are prone to the condition.

Tennis elbow develops as a result of inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow that join the muscles of the forearm. It results from overuse, and repetitively performing the same motions over and over again.

Symptoms of Lateral Epicondylitis

The most common symptom of tennis elbow is pain and tenderness located on the outside of the elbow joint. The pain may radiate down the forearm and into the wrist.  The pain can be more pronounced upon gripping or lifting, particularly when the palm is faced down. Some individuals experience morning stiffness in the area of the inflammation. Other people find they experience pain when turning a doorknob or shaking hands.

How is Tennis Elbow Treated?

There are a number of therapy methods used by a hand surgeon or hand specialist to treat patients who have this condition. Conservative treatment methods include using ice and heat, as well as anti-inflammatory medications.  If possible, activity modification is recommended to prevent the condition from worsening. Depending on the severity of the the condition and the level of pain, your hand doctor may suggest you wearing a wrist brace.

If conventional therapy methods aren’t successful in improving the condition, cortisone injections can be used. Finally, surgery is considered only when the condition hasn’t responded to conservative treatment methods, if the pain is very severe or incapacitating, or if the symptoms have last for at least half a year. The surgical procedure for treating tennis elbow involves removing the degenerated, diseased tendon tissue, and is only recommended as a last resort option.  

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