The usual cause of lateral epicondylitis is overuse of the muscles attached to the outside of the elbow, whose function is to extend the wrist and rotate the forearm. The result of overuse of these muscles and tendons is inflammation. Sometimes microscopic tears develop near to the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow too.
Activities that place repeated stress onto the elbow joint are to blame (e.g. playing tennis and other racquet sports, regular use of a computer mouse, use of power tools and housework chores – all of which may involve the gripping of small objects).
Lateral epicondylitis is common in both men and women between 35 & 55 years of age.
The most common symptoms are pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow and in the muscles of the forearm. The level of pain experienced varies from person to person, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain. Aggravating actions include lifting / bending the arm and twisting or fully extending the forearm.
1. Adequate rest from all aggravating factors.
2. Painkillers may help to reduce the pain and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce inflammation.
3. Application of a cold compress onto the elbow to help reduce local inflammation and reduce pain (10-minute blasts at a time on a regular basis).
4. Use of a forearm/wrist brace to control ongoing overuse and to help relieve any strain on the inflamed tendon.
5. Strengthening exercises with either a small weight or a theraband (resistance band) to rehabilitate the tendon and strengthen the elbow joint.
6. Manual therapy with your osteopath or another therapist, including techniques such as deep tissue to the muscles of the forearm and upper limb, elbow joint articulation, dry needling and kinesio-taping of the elbow joint.
Tennis elbow may last between 3-months and 2-years, depending on the severity of the symptoms.