Common Ailments

Elbow > Tennis Elbow or Lateral Epicondylalgia

Tennis elbow is the general term for a condition that affects the lateral compartment of the elbow. It is also known as lateral epicondylitis, implying that it is an inflammatory condition. However this is a misnomer as studies show that there is no inflammatory process.

The correct term is lateral epicondylalgia i.e. lateral elbow pain. It is a common condition that affects one to three in 100 people.

The elbow joint is composed of 3 bones that allow for the movements of flexion, extension, pronation and supination.

The structures involved in lateral epicondylalgia consist of the common extensor muscles (the muscles that allow the wrist to extend), the respective tendon and the lateral epicondyle (the bony insertion point of tendon).


 

Lateral Epicondylalgia is recognised as a repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Repeated activities that involve the elbow, forearm and wrist e.g. using a screw driver, using vibratory equipment and even key board use can provoke the symptoms of lateral epicondylalgia.

Although it is commonly referred to as tennis elbow, this does not indicate that it is a condition only associated with playing tennis.
 

  • Pain on the lateral side of the elbow, usually point tenderness over the lateral epicondyle (bony prominence)
  • Pain can spread down the forearm along the common extensor muscle belly
  • Swelling over the lateral aspect of the elbow
  • Pain and soreness on gripping and lifting actions
  • Activities that involve wrist extension and gripping are characteristically painful
  • Ice therapy over the lateral elbow to help ease the symptoms
  • Anti-inflammatories and/or pain relief medication can also help to ease the symptoms
  • Rest from the repetitive activity to allow the symptoms to settle. If using the mouse has been recognised as a cause of your symptoms then simply moving the mouse to your other hand can be sufficient rest

  • Physiotherapy can offer relief in the form of soft tissue release techniques, manual therapy, exercises including specific eccentric (dynamically lengthening) control work combined with stretches, eventually progressing to concentric (dynamically shortening) exercises
  • Correction or change of the activity causing the pain can help with future management
  • Acupuncture can also be used as an alternative form of pain relief
  • Persistent symptoms may require the use of an elbow strap or taping to offload the activity of the common extensor muscles
  • If conservative measures are not successful in settling the symptoms then an injection performed by an experienced practitioner may be appropriate