Tennis elbow (also known as a lateral epicondylitis) is a repetitive strain injury caused by repetitive overuse of wrist muscles. Tennis elbow is a common condition, which causes pain and functional impairment in daily routine. The frequency of this complaint is between 1 to 3% among non-athlete population.
Incidence rate and key populations
The highest incidence is found in young age group as well as in the age group of 40-60 years. The incidence rate is 10% higher in women in the age group of 42-46 years. The general causes of tennis elbow are the overuse of forearm, minor or not recognized trauma, weight lifting, etc.
Previously, the disease was found in athletes especially in tennis players, but it also strongly affect painters, plumbers, carpenters, drivers, etc. Research studies have shown that automobile workers, cooks, and even butchers get tennis elbow more often than rest of the population. The dominant arm is ignificantly more often affected than the non-dominant arm.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
The main symptoms of the tennis elbow are pain and stiffness of the hand. Tennis elbow causes pain and tenderness on the outside of an elbow. The pain may also occur in forearm and in the back of a hand. The pain can range from mild to severe, may even occur when the arm is still, often gets worse when the arm is used for twisting movements. An episode of tennis elbow lasts between 6 months to 2 years. However, a full recovery may be reached within a year.
Diagnosis of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is usually diagnosed by physical examination. A patient typically experiences pain when the physician examines the outer part of an elbow. In most cases, tests are not needed for the diagnosis. However, if the symptoms of tennis elbow are not improving for a longer period of time, physician may refer a patient to a specialist, which will choose the most appropriate test for the diagnosis, such as MRI scan or ultrasound.
There are a variety of conservative treatment options for this common condition. These options include resting, medication therapy with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, bracing, physical therapy, ionotophoresis, extra corporal shockwave and botulinum toxin injections. Injections of corticosteroids, dry needling and various surgical techniques can been incorporated in refractory cases. Newer treatment options including platelets rich plasma, autologous blood, prolotherapy, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy.
Besides the most common treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, there are many self-help options to improve the symptoms or to reduce the pain. If the elbow pain is caused by occupational or other repetitive activity such as sports, a person should avoid this activity until the pain disappears or decreases. Cold packs or hot baths may be used as soon as a patient starts feeling the pain. A counterforce brace should be worn during all activities that require grasping or twisting movements. A simple warm-up and stretching exercises should be done to keep the tendons from becoming stiff. When your pain reduces or disappears, these stretching and strengthening exercises should be increased.