Tennis Elbow Causes, Symptoms, Treatment


Tennis elbow is a colloquial term used to refer to lateral epicondylitis. There are other terms use to refer to this physical condition and may include, shooter’s elbow, archer’s elbow etc. In this physical malady the external part of the elbow turns tender as well as sore. This health abnormality is usually associated with sports such as tennis or other sports that include racquet. It should be known though, it is commonly associated with racquet sports, it can happen to anyone.

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Lateral epicondylitis is a physical injury which is caused due to overuse of certain part of the body, specifically bone; it occurs in the lateral portion of the elbow. The condition specifically affects at the extensor tendon that comes from lateral epicondyle. While the term tennis elbow would create a perception that the condition can be caused due to playing tennis, other regular physical activity may also cause the issue.

Tennis Elbow – Symptoms:

When a person is affected with tennis elbow he/ she may also experience some of the symptoms as mentioned below:

• Ache on the lateral epicondyle or outer part of the elbow

• Tenderness of the lateral epicondyle which is a prominent portion of the bone located on the external side of the elbow

• Painful gripping or/ and movement of the wrist particularly wile lifting objects

• Experiencing pain while performing activities that involves extending wrist such pouring, or lifting heavy object with palm down

• Morning stiffness

The symptoms recorded in case of tennis elbow involves transmitting pain from the external portion of your elbow towards the forearm as well as wrist. These pains are normally experienced while extending wrist or performing lifting movement. A person suffering from lateral epicondylitis may also experience forearm weakness or pain while shaking hands or twisting doorknob. It should be known that the symptoms of lateral epicondylitis are not limited to the aforementioned conditions but may also include other symptoms. The pain, initially experienced at the lateral epicondyle then shifts to medial region of the elbow.

Causes of tennis elbow:

It was initially perceived based on experiments that the condition occurs merely due to overextension. However, studies indicate that over 50% of cases of tennis elbow have occurred due to traumatic incidents such as direct strike to epicondyle, forceful jerk or vigorous extension etc.

Cyriax has contributed an explanation on how lateral epicondylitis may be caused. According to this explanation, there are macroscopic as well as microscopic tears happening between the extensor tendon and the lateral humeral epicondyle periosterum. A comprehensive experiment was conducted associated to this study, wherein 28 of 39 volunteering patients had tearing of the tendon cuff. Another research related to tennis elbow indicated that radial nerve is chiefly involved in the condition. This researcher who conducted the study was known as Kaplan who also discovered the constriction of radial nerve due to adherence to radio- humeral joint capsule as well as the small extensor wrist muscle. Evidence indicated difference in these cases based on the contracted tennis elbow. There are some disorders that may increase the risk of lateral epicondylitis, these conditions may include, calcification of rotor cuff, CTS or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or biceps tendinitis.

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Tennis Elbow treatment:

The treatment for tennis elbow provides relief from symptoms as well as focuses on curing the issue. Health experts suggest patients to take rest as the foremost treatment technique. Rest is essential, irrespective of hindrance to biomechanical function of the body. In addition to rest, light exercises including stretching techniques may be suggested by your doctor. This would help in increasing strength as well as improve flexibility of the affected elbow. These exericese does not usually require visit to gymnasiums and sports club. These exercises are designed to be performed at home or at work and doe not need any assistance. To avoid any further traumas and injuries to the elbow the doctor may also suggest the patient to wear supportive devices such as orthotic brace, straps, etc. In some cases the symptoms of the external portion cures on its own to the some extent with 6 months to two years.

Some experts may also prescribe medication such as acetaminophen, naproxen as well as ibuprofen etc to provide relief in case the biomechanical functions of the elbow are affected. Corticosteroids are prescribed by the doctor for patients who have more severe pain and inflammation of the elbow. In case if any treatment does not work, then the doctor may suggest the patient to undergo surgical treatment. Not all patients are qualified for surgical treatment but only 10% patients are suggested to opt for such invasive treatment technique.

Other palliative treatment techniques may include:

• Physical therapies

• NSAIDs or Non- Steroidal Anti- Inflammatory Drugs

• Heat therapy

• Ice therapy

• Supportive gears

• Pain relief vibration therapy

In case of lateral epicondylitis affecting a tennis player resting is the preferred treatment when the pain is first experienced as it enables the tear in the tendon to heal. Tennis player prefer ice therapy to treat little severe cases of lateral epicondylitis along with NSAIDs, Soft tissues and simple exercises.

Tennis elbow Diagnosis:

The diagnosis of such conditions is done by certified doctors under complete medical settings. During the test pressure is exerted on the affected elbow and the mechanical movement of the hand including elbow, wrist etc is evaluated. X- ray imaging technique is used to determine any issues related to the condition. These tests are done carefully as there are chances that the pain is experienced due to other physical conditions such as arthritis etc. There are other techniques used for diagnosing lateral epicondylitis such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI) and ultra- sonography etc. Most people avoid adopting these techniques as these methods are comparatively expensive.

According to researcher Nirschl, there are four stages of tennis elbow that are as follow:

• Inflammatory alteration that can be reversed

• Pathologic alteration which are non- reversible

• ECRB muscle rupture

• Fibrosis calcification and other secondary changes

Tennis elbow may seem temporary condition initially but it should not be taken lightly. Immediate medical attention should be opted before the condition progresses to become worse.

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