Lateral epicondylitis also known as "Tennis elbow". It's an condition that causes pain on the bony lump on the outside of your elbow (the lateral epicondyle). It's caused by small tears in the muscles of your forearm due to overuse of the muscles or from a minor injury. It can lead to rough tissue being formed.
Activities that can cause tennis elbow vary from tennis, gardening, swimming, even manual work that involves repetitive turning or lifting of the wrist such as plumbing or bricklaying.
Symptoms of tennis elbow:
- Recurring pain on the outside of your upper forearm, just below your elbow.
- Pain when lifting or bending your arm.
- Pain when writing or gripping objects.
- Pain when twisting, for example, when opening a door.
- Difficulty in fully extending your arm.
There is also a condition known as "golfers elbow" which is a similar condition that produces pain around the inside if your elbow.
With most cases of tennis elbow the symptoms eventually ease and clear up without any treatment being needed if the activities that bring on the symptoms are stopped. They last on average between six months and two years, with most making a full recovery within a year.
By visiting your GP you can have your tennis elbow diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical examination, and in turn be able to discuss which course of treatment is best suited for you.
Tennis elbow: Am I suitable?
Both men and women are equally likely to affected by tennis elbow. The condition does tend to affect people over 40 years old.
Tennis elbow: What's the treatment like?
There are ways of easing your symptoms with non surgical treatments as surgical treatment should only be recommended as a last resort.
The best treatment is usually modifying the activity that caused the pain.
Painkillers: Anti-inflammatory painkillers can be used to reduce mild pain that tennis elbow can cause.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Painkillers can also come in cream/gel form that can be directly applied to the area of your body that needs treatment. They have been proved to help musculoskeletal conditions such as tennis elbow. Often they're recommended over painkiller tablets as they can provide an effective pain relief and reduce swelling without causing any side effects.
Cortiosteroid injection: If the pain isn't eased by off the counter painkillers, then a cortiosteroid injection could be recommended if you have a very painful tennis elbow that is making movement difficult. The injection would be made directly into the area around your elbow. This treatment has been shown to be very effective in the short term, but not so effective long term.
Physiotherapy: With severe/persistant tennis elbow, you could be reffered to a physiotherapist by your GP. Having physiotherapy can teach you exerszes to help stretch and streghthen your muscles.
Shock wave therapy: Having high-energy sound waves pass through your skin in the affected area to help relieve the pain of tennis elbow and help movement. Local anaethetic made me administered during the procedure to prevent you feeling any pain.
Acupuncture: Fine needles are inserted into your skin around the area affected by tennis elbow. In some cases this can reduce pain and improve the movement, however, there is a lack of evidence to show this.
Surgery: Only very severe and persistent cases of tennis elbow are surgically operated on. In order to relieve the pain, damaged parts of your tendon are removed.
Tennis elbow: What about after?
After having injections you need to take care to rest your arm by avoiding putting too much strain on it too quickly.
With any surgical procedure there will be some aftercare that your GP/surgeon should go through with you.
Tennis elbow: Are there any risks or side effects?
Cortiosteroid injections can ironically cause pain the area effected after having the injection and loss of pigmentation of the skin around the area that has been injected.
Shock wave therapy can potentially you cold bruise swell and damage the skin around the area being treated.