Maintaining Your Health

A Brief Guide to Lateral Epicondylitis

Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow, is a condition that causes pain around the elbow, particularly the outside of the elbow. It is caused mainly by overuse of the muscles and tendons of the elbow. The NHS explains that although it is sometimes caused by tennis, it can also be caused by gardening, painting, typing, playing instruments and manual work like bricklaying. It is common for people in any of those professions to require physiotherapy to treat this condition before they can return to work. This short guide aims to explain the condition, from the initial symptoms through to the treatment process, as well as how to prevent it.

Symptoms of Lateral Epicondylitis

The usual symptoms of this condition include pain or tenderness in the bony outside of the elbow, which may radiate into the upper arms or down into the hands. As WebMD points out, the pain is likely to be more severe when performing certain activities, like lifting or gripping objects.

Diagnosing Lateral Epicondylitis

Lateral epicondylitis can usually be diagnosed by a GP through a simple consultation, in which they will ask about the symptoms as well as the patient's hobbies and occupation. They will also examine the elbow for pain and tenderness, and in a limited amount of cases may recommend an ultrasound scan. Bupa explains that if further tests, such as X-rays, are required, it is typically to rule out other conditions like arthritis. 

Treatment For Lateral Epicondylitis

Lateral epicondylitis is a self-limiting condition, which means that it will usually get better by itself. However, it can last a long time, and therefore many people require faster treatment in order to return to their work. Those with persistent pain will be provided with a course of physiotherapy, which will teach exercises to reduce pain and strengthen the muscles and tendons. Some people will be prescribed corticosteroid injections or other painkillers to reduce the pain. Surgery is generally only considered as a last resort.

Preventing Lateral Epicondylitis

Lateral epicondylitis is a condition that is easier to prevent than to cure, and one of the best ways to prevent it is to make sure you are using proper techniques and methods while working or playing sports. You could also do forearm exercises, as Livestrong suggests, or even get a protective brace to wear when working or playing.

While lateral epicondylitis can be a discouraging condition, especially if it stops you from working or enjoying your hobbies, the condition does generally get better by itself. If the pain is persistent, see a GP as soon as possible to begin an appropriate course of treatment.