Lateral EpicondylitisPT Tip of the Month Archive

Lateral Epicondylitis

Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly referred to as tennis elbow, is an inflammatory condition affecting the extensor muscles of the forearm. Specifically, the tendons that attach these muscles to the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle) develop small tears as a result of overuse or repeated trauma. The involved muscles are typically responsible for extending the wrist and pain is usually felt along the outside of the elbow when contracting these muscles.

Despite its name, ninety-five percent of people who develop tennis elbow do not play tennis. Lateral epicondylitis is most commonly seen in people between the ages of 30 and 50, and usually occurs in the dominant arm. Individuals who engage in activities that involve repetitive wrist motion or gripping (such as twisting a screw driver, holding a heavy suitcase or operating power tools) are at risk for developing this condition. Everyday activities such as raking, shoveling, golfing, bowling, weight lifting, and pitching can all cause tennis elbow. Direct trauma to the outside of the elbow (such as a fall) can also cause this condition.

Symptoms

Lateral EpicondylitisCommon symptoms of tennis elbow include pain and tenderness along the bony portion of the outer elbow. These symptoms are often aggravated by repetitive gripping, lifting, or movement of the wrist against resistance.

Treatment

The elimination of painful activities is an essential part of recovering from tennis elbow. Rest, in combination with icing the elbow for 10-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day will help to decrease your pain and inflammation. Whenever possible, lifting should be done with the palms facing up rather than down to minimize the amount of stress placed on the affected tendons.

Lateral EpicondylitisIf left untreated, tennis elbow can become a chronic condition that may require surgery to repair. Initial treatment may focus on the use of modalities such as ultrasound, electric stimulation, heat and ice to minimize your pain. Stretching and soft tissue mobilization will also be introduced to help decrease your symptoms. When appropriate, we can advise you on a strengthening exercise program that will optimize your power and endurance to ensure a safe return to your desired activity level.

If you, a friend or family member are suffering from what appears to be lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), please contact the office closest to you and set up an evaluation with one of our licensed physical therapists. We can then determine the cause of your condition and the best possible treatment.

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