Epicondylitis, commonly referred to as tennis elbow, is a form of tendinitis that causes pain in your arm and elbow. The condition occurs when the tendons connecting your arm muscles to the bone swell up. Usually, this happens when you overuse the arm or do repetitive gripping activities day in and day out. Today, tennis elbow is a common condition and one of the main reasons why people visit their doctors when experiencing elbow or arm pain.
Causes of Epicondylitis
The main cause of epicondylitis is overuse, especially repetitive motions, such as gripping a racquet of some kind and lifting weights. Repetitive motions such as these strain your muscles and put a lot of stress on your tendons. Eventually, that overuse may result in tears in your tissue. Sports that commonly result in tennis elbow include the following:
Other activities that may cause tennis elbow include:
Symptoms of Epicondylitis
If you have epicondylitis, you may experience tenderness or pain in and around your elbow, especially near the bony knob of your elbow. This is where injured tendons meet the bone, causing pain to radiate throughout your lower or upper arm. Certain activities may cause pain to flare up more than others and include:
- Lifting things
- Making a fist or gripping an object
- Shaking hands or opening doors
- Raising your hands or straightening your wrists
Diagnosis of Epicondylitis
If you think you may have epicondylitis, contact your doctor for an exam. During your exam, your doctor may ask you to flex your arm or wrist to pinpoint the source of your pain. Additionally, he or she may order imaging tests, including X-rays or an MRI to get a good picture of your problem and rule out other conditions.
Treatment of Epicondylitis
If you're diagnosed with having tennis elbow, don't worry. In most cases, the condition clears up on its own with proper rest and home remedies. Common treatment options include the following:
- Applying ice packs to reduce swelling or pain
- Using an elbow strap to protect against further strain
- Taking NSAIDs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to relieve pain and swelling
- Performing simple exercises to reduce muscle stiffness
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections to alleviate swelling and pain in and around your elbow joint
In some cases, these simple treatments may not be enough to alleviate your epicondylitis. In severe cases, you may require surgery. During a surgical procedure to treat your tennis elbow, your doctor will remove the damaged part of your tendons and repair any remaining part. For the most part, many patients have positive experiences with surgery.
Prognosis of Epicondylitis
Because there are so many effective treatment options available, including surgical options, the prognosis for patients with tennis elbow is a positive one. With the proper rest and self-care, most people with the condition make a full recovery. If your arm or elbow is causing you discomfort and you're unsure whether you have tennis elbow, contact your health care provider today.