Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as “tennis elbow” is a type of tendonitis – swelling of the tendons – that causes pain in the elbow and arm. These tendons are bands of tough tissue that connect the muscles of your lower arm to the bone. Any repetitive gripping activity (not just tennis) especially using the thumb and first two fingers may contribute to tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is the most common reason people see their doctors for elbow pain.
Tennis elbow usually develops over time. Repetitive motions, like gripping a racket during a swing, can strain the muscles and put too much stress on the tendons. That constant tugging can eventually cause microscopic tears in the tissue.
Tennis elbow might result from: Tennis, racquetball, squash, fencing, or weight lifting. It could also affect people with jobs that require a lot of repetitive arm movements or gripping such as: Carpentry, typing, painting, raking, or knitting.
The main symptom of tennis elbow is pain located on the outside of the elbow over the bone region known as the lateral epicondyle. This area can be tender to touch and also is painful with any activity that puts stress on the tendon such as gripping or lifting. With activity, the pain usually starts at the elbow and may travel down the forearm to the hand. Often activities involving the hand will cause pain in the elbow.
Some patients find that their symptoms go away spontaneously within a year. For others, both non-surgical and surgical options are available. Non-surgical treatments can include:
• Activity modification: Initially the activity causing the condition should be limited. Modifying grips or techniques may relieve the problem.
• Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications may help alleviate the pain.
• Brace: A tennis elbow brace, a band worn over the muscle of the forearm just below the elbow, can reduce the tension on the tendon and allow it to heal.
• Physical therapy: Stretching and/or strengthening exercises, ultrasound, or heat treatments may help the pain.
• Steroid injections: A steroid is a strong anti-inflammatory medication that can be injected into the area.
Surgery is only considered when the pain is incapacitating and has not responded to other treatments and when symptoms have lasted for a long period of time. If you are experiencing elbow pain and it has not been helped by ice/heat, rest, or anti-inflammatories, please contact our office at 515-955-6767 for an evaluation and further treatment options for your situation. No referral is necessary.