Tennis elbow, medically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a form of tendinitis that affects the tendons of the elbow area. These tendons connect the forearm muscles to the bone. It is a painful condition resulting from the weakening of the tendons due to repetitive arm movement, especially in the elbow area. Tennis elbow accounts for only 5% of cases and usually requires only minor treatment.
A patient with a tennis elbow may experience shooting pain in the bony knob located on the outside of the elbow. This bony knob connects the wounded tendons to the bone. The pain, though concentrated on the bony knob, may even extend to the upper or lower arm. The patient is likely to suffer excruciating pain while performing tasks with their hands. This could include –
If you find no relief from self-care methods, especially the R.I.C.E method, which stands for Rest, Ice Pack, Compression, and Elevation, and even over-the-counter pain relievers have had no effect, it may be a good time to visit a doctor.
Notwithstanding its name, you can get tennis elbow even if you haven’t been near a tennis court in your life, let alone played a game in it. This is because there are several other causes responsible for this type of tendinitis besides repetitive tennis play. The condition seldom occurs abruptly, but gradually develops over time. Repetitive motions and constant tugging lead to microscopic tears in the tissue.
The causes behind tennis elbow include –
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing the condition. These factors include –
To diagnose a person with tennis elbow, a doctor will generally ask for the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Then, the patient might be asked to do some simple arm movements such as straightening the wrist and folding the arm to check for any pain while doing so. In some cases, the doctor might opt for imaging tests like X-ray and MRI scans to take a better look at what’s going on inside the arm.
Post-diagnosis, the patient will be asked to stop playing sports or do certain kinds of work like typing, painting, etc. to give the arm proper rest. However, since “absolute rest leads to rust,” the patient may need to learn the use of the shoulder and upper arm muscles so that there is some movement but no strain on the elbow. The doctor may recommend the following treatment options based on the severity of the condition –
Post-treatment, the condition should become better within a few short weeks; however, it may take longer for those with surgical removal of the damaged tendon. During this period, it is recommended to abstain from sports and constant arm movements, take plenty of rest, and use an ice pack for 15 minutes three times a day to speed up the healing process.