Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is the most common injury in patients seeking medical attention for elbow pain. Exactly what causes tennis elbow is unknown, but it is thought to be due to small tears of the tendons that attach forearm muscles to the arm bone at the elbow joint.
The muscle group involved, the wrist extensors, function to cock the wrist back. Specifically, the extensor carpi radialis brevis has been implicated in causing the symptoms of tennis elbow.
•What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
Patients with tennis elbow syndrome experience pain on the outside of the elbow that is worsened by grasping objects and cocking back the wrist. The most common symptoms of tennis elbow are:
•Pain over the outside of the elbow
•Pain when lifting objects
•Pain radiating down the forearm
The pain associated with tennis elbow usually has a gradual onset, but it may also come on suddenly. Most patients with tennis elbow are between the ages of 35 and 65 years old, and it affects about an equal number of men and women. Tennis elbow occurs in the dominant arm in about 75 percent of patients. Anyone can be affected, but tennis elbow is most commonly seen in two groups of people:
Sports participants, especially racquet sport players, are prone to developing tennis elbow. About a third of regular tennis players experience tennis elbow at some point in their careers. In addition to racquet sports, tennis elbow is seen in golfers, fencers, and other sports participants.
•Treatment: Elbow Brace and Exercises
An elbow orthosis, called an elbow clasp, can be worn. The theory behind using an elbow clasp is that the brace will redirect the pull of misaligned muscles. Patients often find relief of pain when using the clasp during activities.
Some simple exercises can also be helpful in controlling the symptoms of tennis elbow. These exercises should not cause pain, and those that do should not be done until pain resolves. By strengthening the muscles and tendons involved with tennis elbow, you can help prevent the problem from returning.
Anti-inflammatory medications are often used to help control pain and inflammation. The oral forms of these medications are easy to take and often help control inflammation and manage pain.
If these conservative measures fail, a steroid (cortisone) injection is a reasonable option. If a person has tried more than two cortisone injections without relief, it is unlikely that additional injections will benefit the patient.