Carlos R. Rodriguez, MD
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a condition that causes in pain in the outside aspect of the elbow. The pain is caused by the inflammation of the bony bump on the outer side of the elbow where the muscles of the forearm that extend the wrist insert. This condition has also been called wrist extensor tendonitis.
The overuse of the muscles that raise your fingers and wrist causes increase stress at their bony insertion and can also cause tiny tears of the tendon. The pain can be felt along the outer side of the forearm when the wrist or fingers are extended, you make a fist, or you try to lift a heavy object. This commonly happens in athletes involved in racquet sports, such as tennis.
Our physicians at the All Children's Sports Medicine clinic will ask you about your symptoms, examine your elbow and may order some x-rays of it.
Treatment usually consists of ice to the area for 20-30 minutes 3-4 times a day, stretching and rest from your activity. You may also be prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication and an elbow sleeve to keep the area from swelling.
A rehabilitative or home exercise program will also be recommended to strengthen the muscles of your forearm and a strap can be prescribed to be worn just below the tender spot on your elbow. This allows the forearm muscles to pull against the strap rather than against the painful bony insertion. Playing with a racquet with a larger grip and improvements in your swing mechanics may also prevent this condition from developing.
In some cases a cortisone injection may be recommended around the lateral epicondyle to reduce the inflammation. In severe cases or those not improving with all of the above therapies an orthopedic evaluation for surgery may be recommended.
Our goal is to get you back to your sport as safely and quickly as possible. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better.