Lateral epicondylitis, lateral epicondylosis, or lateral elbow tendinopathy are a few of the names you may hear for what is commonly called tennis elbow. It’s a form of tendinitis, and it affects the outside of your elbow. More specifically, tennis elbow harms the extensor tendon, which is responsible for straightening your fingers and pulling your wrist back.
If you make any repetitive motion that involves gripping or extending your wrist, you could develop inflammation where your extensor tendon connects to your elbow. Without treatment, the inflammation can cause damage to your soft tissues over time.
The experts at Orthocenter have treated numerous cases of tennis elbow that occurred due to sports activities, but we’ve also seen plenty of patients who developed the condition from performing other activities.
Sewing, using a computer keyboard, and many other normal, day-to-day movements can cause tennis elbow. Even when you develop tennis elbow from other kinds of activities, sports medicine is an effective approach for treating it.
Each time you extend your fingers or bend your wrist, the muscles in your forearm contract and extend. Your tendons attach your muscles to your bones, and each contraction and extension of your muscles puts a small amount of stress on your tendons.
When you perform the same motion again and again, the stress can create tiny, sometimes microscopic tears in your tendons. When this happens, you’re likely to feel some pain, usually in your forearm. As your body begins to try to heal the tears, inflammation develops.
As the inflammation worsens, you’re more likely to experience pain even when you do small things like turning a doorknob. The tears can also worsen at this stage.
There’s another factor in addition to repetitive motion that can make you more likely to develop tennis elbow: If you’re over the age of 40, you have a greater risk. As we age, our tendons become more vulnerable to breaking down, and it’s easier for those micro-tears to develop.
Treating tennis elbow
The most appropriate treatment for you depends on a host of factors, including your overall health, the cause of your injury, your goals and the demands of your daily life. Our doctors usually diagnose tennis elbow after an examination, although they may also want you to have X-rays or other diagnostic tests depending on your situation.
There are many treatments for tennis elbow. Most of the time, our team begins with the most conservative treatment and progresses to more specialized treatment as needed. For example, we may suggest rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and icing early on.
Reducing inflammation and giving your tendons time to heal may be the first steps in your treatment. Other common treatments for tennis elbow include:
- Certain exercises to strengthen your muscles
- Increasing flexibility
- Electrical or ultrasound stimulation to help improve circulation
- Prescription medications
- Corticosteroid injections
- Surgical intervention
Getting treatment is important
If you suspect you may have tennis elbow, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. Waiting gives the condition time to worsen, leading to more pain and less mobility. Tendinitis can take weeks or months to heal, so even if it seems to be getting better, it can come back.
Additionally, inflammation can eventually lead to joint damage. Getting treatment can mean less pain both now and in the future.
If you’re experiencing pain and you think it could be tennis elbow, book an appointment at one of our three convenient locations in Red Bank, Morganville, and Holmdel, New Jersey, today.