Hand Doctor Discusses Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
Lateral epicondylitis is the medical term for tennis elbow, a common condition that causes pain on the outside part of your elbow. Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that can develop after playing tennis or other racquet sports, although people can develop lateral epicondylitis after engaging in other activities. Lateral epicondylitis can prevent you from going to work, attending school, playing sports, or taking care of your family. Fortunately, a hand doctor can diagnose and treat lateral epicondylitis.
About Lateral Epicondylitis
Tendons connect muscles to bones; muscles pull on tendons to move bones at the joints where two or more bones come together. Three bones come together to form your elbow joint: the humerus bone in your upper arm and the two bones in your forearm. There are several boney bumps, known as epicondyles, on the humerus bone. The boney bump on the outside, or lateral side, of your elbow is the lateral epicondyle.
The suffix –litis means inflammation, so epicondylitis means inflammation near an epicondyle. Epicondylitis develops when repetitive stress causes small tears in the tendons that join the muscles of your forearm to the bones on the outside of your elbow become inflamed. These small tears cause inflammation that leads to pain and tenderness where the tendons meet the bones.
Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain or burning at the outside of your elbow, and weak grip strength. Performing certain actions with your forearm, such as holding a racquet, shaking someone’s hand or turning a screwdriver can make symptoms worse.
Tennis elbow is most likely to affect your dominant arm, although you can develop the painful condition on either arm.
While anyone with certain risk factors can develop tennis elbow, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says that most people who develop the condition are between the ages of 30 and 50.
Hand Specialist Discusses Diagnosis and Treatment for Lateral Epicondylitis
A hand specialist can diagnose and treat lateral epicondylitis. The hand doctor will examine your hand and arm, review your symptoms, and discuss your risk factors for tennis elbow. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have ever injured your elbow or if you have a history of nerve disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
Your hand doctor may order tests to aid in diagnosis. These tests include x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electromyography (EMG).
Most patients – 80 to 95 percent – do not need hand surgery and respond well to conservative treatments, such as rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, bracing and occupational therapy. Cortisone injections may help patients who do not respond to conservative treatments. Your hand surgeon can help you determine if hand surgery is right for you.
If you have elbow pain, consult with your hand doctor to learn more about lateral epicondylitis.