Frequently Asked Questions about the Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis?

Tennis elbow is a condition caused by inflammation of the tendons on the outside (lateral side) of the elbow at a bony prominence (lateral epicondyle) of the upper arm. Certain repetitive movements of the wrist can cause this condition. It got its name because tennis players are very prone to this injury, however, it is not limited to tennis players. The injury is also called tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon) a more common occurance is thought to be tendinosis (degeneration of the tendon).

What are Causes of Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow does not only affect tennis players who of course frequently strain the muscles in this area. It is also caused by other sports and by work or hobbies that involve repetitive movements. Movements where the elbow is bent while holding tightly onto something such as a racquet or a tool, are the most common causes of tennis elbow.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow usually starts with gradually increasing pain on the outer side of the elbow. It is painful if someone presses on the area. If you bend the wrist upwards against pressure, it will hurt around the projection of the bone on the outer elbow.

The pain may eventually radiate up into the upper arm and down along the outer side of the forearm. There may be a feeling of weakness in the wrist which makes it difficult to do things that require strength in the hand.

What can be done at home?

At first, the pain may be relieved by applying an cold therapy pack. The cold pack can be applied for 20 to 30 minutes at a time and again after an interval of about an hour.

The arm should be rested and any movement that causes the pain should be avoided.

Stretching exercises may help. The wrist must be bent all the way down and the hand kept down by the opposite hand. The elbow must be stretched out entirely and the forearm turned inwards so the fingertips point to the side. The stretch should be held for about 15 seconds then repeated after a brief interval. This should be repeated several times a day.

Using an elbow band can help. The elbow band will provide some compression to the tendon just below the elbow joint and minimize any stress to the tendon.

Analgesics can sometimes help alleviate any pain or inflammation in the area. It may also help to increase circulation in the area.

Contact your doctor or physical therapist for more information regarding specific exercises to help treat your specific problem.