Lateral Epicondylitis: Tennis Elbow
The muscles of the forearm attach to bony bumps (epicondyles) on the inside (medial) and outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow. With repetitive use, these muscles can become damaged and inflamed, causing pain and tenderness. When these symptoms occur on the outside of the elbow, it is known as tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis. Although patients who participate in repetitive sports such and golf or tennis are pre-disposed to epicondylitis, it may also commonly occur in patients who do other forms or repetitive activity such as painting, carpentry, or computer work.
Patients with epicondylitis complain of elbow pain over the epicondyles. It may be worse with gripping or lifting, and can cause feeling of weakness in the arm.
Most patients with lateral epicondylitis get better with a combination of non-operative treatments. Modifying activity to eliminate repetitive use is important. Anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises, massage, therapy, braces, and even injections are all used to help improve symptoms. In a small number of patients, symptoms may persist for many months. Surgery is an option in these patients. Epicondylitis surgery is outpatient, and involves removal of the damaged tendon tissue. Lateral epicondylitis may be treated surgically through a small incision on the outside of the elbow.
After surgery, the patient will wear a sling and begin physical therapy to restore strength and flexibility to the elbow.