Lateral Epicondylitis

Lateral EpicondylitisWhat is Lateral Epicondylitis?
Lateral epicondylitis is a disorder caused by inflammation of forearm tendons at their attachment to the elbow. These tendons are responsible for extending the wrist. Therefore, lifting the wrist and hand can cause pain in the forearm and at the elbow. The lateral epicondyle (a bony prominence on the outside of the elbow) is where these tendons attach and the muscles in the forearm can become very painful.

What Causes Lateral Epicondylitis?
Routine use of the arm or trauma to the area can trigger inflammation at the attachment of the muscles. Generally, this is seen in people who perform activities or lifting with the palm side of the hand facing down and repetitive activities.

What Are the Symptoms of Lateral Epicondylitis?
Most of the pain is in the outer side of the elbow, near the lateral epicondyle (see Diagram). There may also be pain with gripping and wrist extension. The discomfort may extend into the forearm or towards the upper arm. In severe case the motion of the elbow may be limited.

How is it Treated?
Treatment for lateral epicondylitis starts with limiting the activities that cause pain (ie. palm down lifting) and physical therapy for stretching and strengthening exercises plus other inflammation reducing techniques. An elbow strap can help the limit the pull of the muscles on their bone attachments. A steroid injection may be used to relieve some of the discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medicine may also be recommended. Recovery is often slow requiring months for healing to occur.

In severe cases, which fail other treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery. The surgical procedure removes the chronic inflammation from the tendon. Tendon healing and complete recovery takes about 3 months. During recovery the hand and wrist can be used for light activity and lifting is avoided.