Most of the muscles that extend your wrist are attached to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow called the lateral epicondyle. Sometimes, through injury or overuse, the site where these muscles insert can become irritated or inflamed. This condition is called lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow”- although the majority of those affected do not play tennis.
Activities involving repetitive wrist extension are a common cause of this condition, i.e., tennis, carpentry, bricklaying, knitting, playing piano, typing, or lifting objects with your palm facing down. The condition is 3 times more likely to strike your dominant arm.
The pain often begins as an intermittent or gradual discomfort during activity and progresses so that even simple activities, like holding a coffee cup, become painful. Pain may increase when you straighten your arm, grip a doorknob or shake hands. The pain may vary from mild to severe and commonly radiates into the forearm, sometimes to the wrist.
Without treatment, “tennis elbow” usually lingers – 80% of patients still report pain after one year. The first step in a successful treatment plan is to modify or eliminate activities that cause symptoms. Try to avoid lifting heavy objects with your palm facing down. Tennis or racquetball players may need to consider changing to a lighter racket or a smaller handle. We may prescribe a “counter force brace” for your elbow. This brace will act as a temporary new attachment site for your muscles thereby reducing some of the stress to your elbow. Sports creams and home ice massage may provide relief as well. Be patient with your recovery!