It is a condition in which the elbow starts paining due to overuse. The tendons within the elbow and the muscles of the forearm become fatigued due to overworking of wrist and arm. Therefore, the tendons get inflamed and cause tennis elbow. The name, lateral epicondylitis, comes from lateral epicondyle that is the bump on the outer part of the upper arm bone (humerus). This part provides attachment to tendons from the forearm. This way, the pain is experienced on the outer part of the elbow as well. Apart from playing tennis or other racquet sports, one can be affected by this disease if he is a plumber, butcher, carpenter or painter.
How do I know I have tennis elbow?
You will experience pain in your elbow and find it radiating below towards your forearm and wrist. The pain starts off mildly and increases gradually to severe levels. If you are a right-hander, your right arm is affected more and left arm in cases of left-handers but this may affect both arms as well. You may experience a burning sensation along with pain on the outer aspect of your elbow. The pain seems to worsen when you try to hold something (like a racquet), shake hands or chop meat (in case of butchers). During such movements, you may feel your arm becoming weak and you may not be able to grasp things perfectly as you used to do in the past.
If you find that your symptoms have shown no improvement even after rest taken after discontinuation of your strenuous activities you need to check your orthopedician.
How will your doctor examine you?
Your doctor will ask the details about the type of pain you experience and the sites where you have it. He will ask you about your occupation or even the type of sport that you play mostly. With the description you provide, the doctor will be able to make out your problem almost exactly.
You can help your doctor by providing him every detail of any previous medical problem you had like rheumatoid arthritis or any nerve disorder. Your doctor may conduct few physical tests to make an exact diagnosis of the disease. An Xray may be required to rule out other conditions like arthritis. MRI is performed to check if the pain is due to any neck problem. EMG may be required to investigate for any nerve impingement as it also causes similar symptoms.
What are the various treatments available?
Non-surgical treatment methods are:
1 : Appropriate rest and quitting the work or sports (if there is sports injury).
2 : Administration of NSAIDS like Ibuprofen which are effective painkillers.
3 : Change of racquets (if due to tennis or other sports that require racquets) to a lighter form that is less straining to the arm.
4 : Physiotherapy like ultrasound and exercises that can stimulate the damaged muscles.
Surgery is always the last treatment option doctors think of. It is only thought when a person does not get relief after at least 6 months to one year of treatment with non-surgical methods. The main idea is to remove the injured part of the muscles and connect the bone with the healthy portion of the muscles. After the surgery your arm may be immobilized and protected with a splint for a period of one week or so. With the help of exercises, gradually your arm is made able to function normally.
If you have been told that you have elbow lateral epicondylitis, please contact our sports medicine specialists at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego.