Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, is a painful condition involving the tendons that attach to the bone on the outside (lateral) part of the elbow. The muscle involved in this condition, the extensor carpi radialis brevis, helps to extend and stabilize the wrist.
The pain is located on the outside of the elbow, over the bone known as the lateral epicondyle. This area becomes tender and painful with activities which stress the tendon, such as gripping or lifting. The pain usually begins at the elbow and may travel down the forearm. Occasionally, any motion of the elbow can be painful.
Treatment: Activity modification: Initially, the activity causing the condition should be limited. Avoiding lifting objects away from the body with the palm down and remembering to lift items close to the body in the palm up position can help prevent stress on the extensor tendons.
Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. Advil®, ibuprofen) may be taken to help alleviate the pain.
Brace: There are two main braces used for this condition. (1) A tennis elbow or “counterforce” brace is a band worn just below the elbow that can reduce the tension on the tendon. Make sure you place the “bump” on the outer part of the elbow. (2) A wrist splint that allows the extensor tendons to rest.
Physical Therapy: Stretching and/or strengthening exercises combined with modalities such as ultrasound or heat treatments may be helpful.
Surgery: Surgery is only considered when the pain is incapacitating, the condition has not responded to conservative care.