Lateral Epicondylitis


Definition – Lateral epicondylitis, or more commonly referred to as “Tennis Elbow”, is elbow pain caused by an overuse of the wrist and finger extensor muscle groups. These muscles and tendons become inflamed at their attachment to the bony outer area of the elbow.


Cause – This injury is usually classified as an “overuse” type of injury and is caused by a repetitive active motion of the upper extremity. This repetitive motion causes micro stresses and traumas to the muscles and tendons at the outside of the elbow. These micro traumas can build up over time and cause inflammation at the elbow and a sharp or burning pain. Other than overuse, this injury can be caused by a single strain of the muscles or an insidious (unknown) onset. Anyone can be affected by this injury, but most commonly athletes or people performing a repetitive task involving the forearm such as hammering, using a screwdriver, wrenching, chopping, gripping/squeezing too hard, etc.


Signs and Symptoms – Pain that gradually gets worse, sharp or burning pain at the outer surface of the elbow, weak grip, and difficulty lifting or grasping. Making a fist and squeezing is usually painful. As it worsens, pain can go down the forearm to the hand. Tingling and numbness may occur.


Tests/Assessment – X-rays may be taken to rule out any structural damage to the bones or joints. Specific orthopedic special tests to rule in/out tennis elbow. MRI may be taken to determine severity of injury if pain persists and conservative treatment does not help.


Treatment Options – Physical therapy, rest and ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, wearing an elbow brace/strap if required to do a stressful task, steroid injections to decrease pain and inflammation, possible surgery.


What PT can do – You can expect your physical therapist to provide a regimen of stretching, strengthening, skilled manual therapy, modalities to help decrease pain, functional tasks to return to work or sport, and education to prevent reoccurrence


Advice and Solutions – If you are just noticing these symptoms begin with rest and ice 15-20 minutes to the painful area, multiple times a day. Begin stretching the wrist extensors by placing your effected arm out in front of you with your palm facing down, use your opposite hand to press the back of your effected hand down toward the ground, you should feel a pull/stretch at the elbow and area of pain.


Final Statement – Contact your Doctor or Physical Therapist for further care and to begin a course of rehabilitation 

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