Lateral Epicondylalgia A.K.A. “Tennis Elbow”

While lateral epicondylalgia is often called “tennis elbow” that’s not entirely accurate as only about 5% of people with lateral epicondylalgia actually play tennis. Lateral epicondylalgia is also commonly referred to as epicondylitis, another misnomer, as the suffix “itis” denotes inflammation and there is usually minimal to no inflammation. Many of the muscles that help us to extend our wrist and fingers, grip, and carry converge at a single attachment point in our arm, called the common extensor origin. Lateral epicondylalgia is often caused by the degeneration of the tendons at the common extensor origin. Typically this condition occurs in both men and women between the age of 35-55.

You might feel…

    • Pain and weakness with both large grip (shaking hands) and small grip (turning the key to start your car)
    • May have loss of elbow and wrist range of motion into extension
    • Pain and tenderness to palpation over the lateral epicondyle and/or common extensor tendon
    • Sensitivity to cold and pressure at the elbow
    • Symptoms typically build gradually over time

Possible Causes…

      • Repeated use of forceful grip as with hammering, or manipulating tools
      • Degenerative changes to the common extensor tendon caused by overuse and repetitive micro trauma

Things to try…

      • Interventions are going to be specific to where you are in the recovery process and the extent of the injury. Progression of movements is quality based. As you demonstrate greater competency and capacity to do the movements they need to be progressively more challenging

Every individual and every episode of lateral elbow pain is very unique. The treatment suggestions listed above include several options to try and see how they may improve your situation. In addition, a thorough evaluation by a physical therapist can help identify specific features about your condition and how to best manage them. Understanding as much as possible about your current condition is a very important aspect of the recovery process and will empower you to take the necessary steps to get back to your normal activities with as little discomfort as possible.

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