Tennis Elbow (aka Lateral Epicondylitis or Lateral Epicondylalgia)

Tennis Elbow Lateral Epicodylitis

Tennis elbow is due to inflammation of the muscles and tendons that attach to the outer elbow area. It is also called lateral epicondylitis due to involvement of lateral epicondyle – the location on the outside of the arm where all of the affected tendons and ligaments attach.

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is a medical condition seen in individuals who overuse upper limb muscles resultant of repeated and poorly regulated arm, forearm and hand movements. Although this injury is seen more commonly in tennis players, it is not limited to athletes, and can be seen in dominant arms of people who enjoy gardening and painting. It can also involve the non-dominant arm, or both arms. The overall incidence in general population is low (between 1 to 3%), however in individuals with recognized occupational risk factors, the incidence can be as high as 30 to 50%. Most cases reported are in people between 30 to 50 years of age.

Lateral Epicondylitis Sign and Symptoms:

  • Worsening pain in the elbow joint that may be provoked (after activity) or unprovoked (at rest)
  • Aggravated pain (stabbing or shooting in character) when the hands are used for gripping or when the forearm is twisted. In more severe cases, activity by the hands is completely restricted, and simple activities such as opening a jar or lifting utensils may also elicit agonizing pain
  • Weakness of grasp or hand-grip

How Does Tennis Elbow Develop?

Overuse or abuse of forearm muscles and tendons is the primary cause of tennis elbow. The forearm muscles attach via tendons to the bone, and if the muscles undergo excessive stress or strain, tearing of muscle fibers and tendons can occur. This pattern of injury is most common in tennis players or individuals who play racquet sports, hence the name. Most cases are reported in players who often use backhand strokes or techniques.

As a result of chronic stress on muscle fibers and tendons, inflammation can lead to tendon degeneration and potential sclerosis (thickening) at the point of its attachment to the bone. Movements become extremely painful when tendons are thickened, and can subsequently affect range of motion and mobility of the elbow joint.

Tennis Elbow Risk factors May Include:

  • Jobs involving excessive typing or mouse use
  • Jobs with repetitive movements such as butchers, painters, plumbers, mechanics, and gardeners
  • Any physical activity that involves twisting movement of forearm, especially if repetitive

About 

Brad Saltz is a successful graduate of the University of Sydney’s Masters of Physiotherapy program, after earning a Kinesiology and Health Sciences Honours degree at York University. He is currently fully accredited and registered in good standing in Canada and Australia, and practices Acupuncture under licence from the AFCI. Brad specializes in the treatment of sports injuries, overuse injuries and motor vehicle accident injuries.

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