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Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow) Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Tennis Elbow can be a Painful condition

Lateral Epicondylitis or Tennis Elbow is an overuse injury of the elbow.

Lateral epicondylitis is a painful condition that affects the tendons that attach to the bone on the lateral (outside) aspect of the elbow. Tendons are what attach muscles to bone.  When these tendons get irritated from repetitive wrist and arm use, they often become inflamed resulting in weakness and pain.  The most common muscle involved in lateral epicondylitis is the extensor carpi radialis brevis, which is responsible for wrist extension.  However, any forearm muscle that produces wrist extension or supination (turning the palm up) can be involved in lateral epicondylitis.  This condition is commonly referred to as “tennis elbow” because it is often seen in tennis players due to the excessive amount of wrist extension involved in backhand motions.

Although this condition is most commonly referred to as tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis has many different causes. It is common in any sport that involves repetitively gripping an object, such as baseball, softball, racquetball, golf, javelin throwing, and fencing. It is also very common to develop this condition from non-athletic activities, such as meat-cutting, plumbing, painting, driving screws, and excessive computer mouse use.  Though this injury is traditionally seen from repetitive activities and overuse, it is also possible to develop lateral epicondylitis after a direct blow to the outside of the elbow, causing swelling and eventual breakdown of the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle.

The most common symptom associated with lateral epicondylitis is pain. The pain is usually isolated to the outside of the elbow, but may radiate into the forearm and wrist.  Due to this pain, it may be difficult for people to shake hands, turn a doorknob, or hold and lift everyday objects in their grasp. Initially, the treatment for lateral epicondylitis is activity modification. Understanding what motion is causing that pain, and decreasing that repetitive motion or learning the proper technique to the movement are keys.  Rest, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy are also recommended to help alleviate pain.

Tennis Elbow Brace

The GOSTRAP Tennis Elbow Strap can be an effective treatment for lateral epicondylitis.

As part of a comprehensive treatment, a brace is also often recommended to help reduce pain.  The most effective type of brace is a counterforce brace.  Unlike the traditional one strap tennis elbow brace, a counterforce brace, such as the Comffit GOSTRAP Tennis Elbow Support, uses straps above and below the elbow to help carry the load placed on the elbow while simultaneously reducing the tension placed on that area. This brace is effective because it provides a counterforce in the opposite direction of the wrist extensors (muscles causing pain).  In addition because of its two strap design, the straps do not have to be applied very tight to provide support, so it is comfortable to wear all day and does not restrict elbow motion.  When dealing with lateral epicondylitis, a Comffit GOSTRAP Tennis Elbow Support is an affordable and effective addition to a comprehensive treatment and therapy plan.

About the author

Megan Goodrich MA, ATC

Megan Goodrich, ATC is a contributing author and staff member of Hat Trick Sports. Megan graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Sports Medicine and received a Masters of Arts degree in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she worked with the Division 1 field hockey and track and field teams. Megan has also worked as an Assistant Athletic Trainer at Kent State University, and more recently as the Head Athletic Trainer at Villa Maria Academy in Erie, PA. Megan brings her love of sports and knowledge of sports medicine to all of her articles, as well as when working with customers at Hat Trick Sports.

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