What is tendonitis elbow?
Tendinitis elbow is one of the most common forms of tendinitis. When the tendon that connects the forearm muscles to the elbow bone becomes inflamed, lateral epicondylitis, or “tendinitis elbow” occurs. It’s also known as tennis elbow, and as the name implies, elbow tendon inflammation is frequently found in those who play racquet sports (e.g. tennis, racquetball and squash). However, it is also found in a variety of professions that require repetitive manual movements of the wrist. The flexing hand movements of a tennis backhand stroke, a painter’s brushstroke or a plumber’s pipe fastening motion all place strain on the forearm where the tendon attaches to the elbow joint (lateral epicondyle). The resulting inflammation produces pain, stiffness, and loss of motion. Although repetitive use is the most common source of tendinitis in the elbow, blunt force can also be a cause.
Elbow doctors find tendonitis elbow in active adults ages 30-50 that work extensively with their hands as well as less active adults that choose to dive into a new sport without the proper equipment, form or training. Professions with an elevated risk of tendonitis elbow include manual jobs with extensive wrist movement such as carpenters, painters, plumbers, as well as dentists and those involving a high use of computer keystrokes that flex the wrist repetitively.
Do you have elbow tendonitis?
If you experience pain, stiffness, or a burning sensation where the forearm tendon connects to the bony bump on the outside of the elbow, you may have tendonitis in your elbow. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, reduced range of motion, or difficulty lifting or gripping.
If you have elbow pain, consult an elbow doctor to diagnose the source of pain and identify the most appropriate course of treatment. Early care is important in diagnosing the condition as well as reducing the possibility of chronic or persistent elbow pain. A physical exam and supporting imaging can reveal the cause of the discomfort, the severity of the condition and the best treatment option. A proper elbow examination will include assessment of the corresponding nerves, tendons, muscle and bones to identify the presence of nerve damage, arthritis, or tendonitis.
As with many overuse conditions, a pause in the activity can provide immediate relief. RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation), stretching and muscle therapy are common conservative treatments for elbow tendonitis that produce positive results. Pain management and braces that support proper muscle movement are also effective. More intensive treatments include sonic treatment and surgical repair.
Relief from tendonitis in the elbow can happen as quickly as a few weeks, however, some cases can take months. Severe cases that do not resolve within the first few months of conservative treatment may require corrective surgery to restore proper joint function. Elbow surgery has been shown to have a high success rate. With all treatment options, the resumption of activity should be slow and gradual to limit the risk of reoccurrence.
Proper sports equipment, proper form, warm-up, and moderation of activity are the best safeguards against developing tendonitis elbow. Whether it’s a racket sport or manual activity, thoughtful warm-ups and limiting the duration of the training or work are also prudent.
Elbow tendonitis doesn’t need to keep you sidelined, but it does require attention and treatment. CCOE offers a complete range of treatment options for patients experiencing elbow pain. Visit one of our specialists:
Visit ccoe.us or call (719) 623-1050