Treatment for Lateral Epicondylitis

What is Lateral Epicondylitis?

elbow bones injury

Causes of Lateral Epicondylitis

Lateral Epicondylitis is often caused by damage to a muscle in the forearm. When the elbow is straight, the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) is the muscle that stabilises the wrist.

A tennis groundstroke is a perfect example. Overuse of the ECRB causes microscopic tears in the tendon where it attaches to the elbow. When you bend or straighten the elbow, you increase the risk of damage to the ECRB. The muscle rubs against bony bumps as the elbow straightens or bends. The risk is not limited to sportsmen and women. Individuals aged 40 and above are also more a risk, alongside those who work jobs that entail repetitive motion.

Diagnosis of Lateral Epicondylitis

Your GP will consider multiple factors during a diagnosis. They will want to know if tennis elbow was caused by your occupation or by recreational sport participation. They will also want to discuss how the symptoms have developed and where the symptoms occur. Inform your GP if you have had past issues of pain in your elbow.

Tests might include asking you to straighten your fingers and wrist against resistance to see if you feel pain. Your GP could also perform an MRI scan, X-ray or order an EMG to rule out nerve compression. A positive test tells the doctor the muscles in your elbow are weak.

Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis

The first step is to stop or reduce the activity that led to the symptoms. Holding a cold compress against your elbow for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours daily could ease the pain. An elbow strap or brace over the upper forearm protects the injured elbow from further strain.

Your GP could recommend NSAIDs such as naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin to help with the swelling and pain. These drugs have side effects and should be used sparingly unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Physical therapy helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles.

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