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Alternative namesEpitrochlear bursitis; Lateral epicondylitis; Epicondylitis - lateral
DefinitionTennis elbow is an inflammation, soreness, or pain on the outside (lateral) side of the upper arm near the elbow. There may be a partial tear of the tendon fibers, which connect muscle to bone, at or near their point of origin on the outside of the elbow.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
This injury is caused by repetitively twisting the wrist or forearm. The injury is classically associated with tennis playing, hence the name "tennis elbow", but any activity that involves repetitive twisting of the wrist (like using a screwdriver) can lead to lateral epicondylitis.
Signs and tests
The diagnosis is made by clinical signs and symptoms, since X-rays are usually normal. Often there will be pain or tenderness when the tendon is gently pressed near where it attaches to the upper arm bone, over the outside of the elbow
There is also pain near the elbow when the wrist is extended (bent backwards, like revving a motorcycle engine) against resistance.
Treatment is aimed at pain relief and reducing inflammation. Treatment methods include:
To prevent the recurrence of the injury, a splint may be worn during aggravating activities, or the activities may need to be modified. If the pain persists despite these nonoperative treatments, surgery may be necessary.
Expectations (prognosis)Over 90% of people improve with non-surgical treatment. Of the 10% that need surgery, 90% of these experience subsequent relief.
Calling your health care provider
Apply home treatment (over-the-counter anti-inflammatory analgesics and immobilization) if symptoms are mild or if you have had this disorder before and you know this is what you have.
Maintain good strength and flexibility in the arm muscles or avoid repetitive motions. Rest the elbow when flexion and extension is painful. An ice pack applied to the outside of the elbow after repetitive motion may help alleviate symptoms.
Update Date: 11/13/2002Andrew L. Chen, M.D., M.S., Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT