Often referred to as tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis is a condition where the tendons that allow extension of the wrist become inflamed. This happens as a result of repetitive wrist extension such as lifting, turning a screwdriver, or hitting a backhand in tennis.
Most patients report a gradual onset of pain at the elbow that radiates into the forearm. Over time, the pain can worsen and is typically described as throbbing elbow pain at rest of with minor activity such as holding a coffee cup or using a computer mouse.
Initial treatment of lateral epicondylitis includes NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, etc.), activity modifications, and physical therapy to work on stretching and forearm strengthening exercises. Sometimes patients are given a tennis elbow strap to wear just below the elbow on the forearm to alleviate some of the force being exerted on the elbow. Heat and ice can also help alleviate pain. If pain persists despite these treatments, sometimes a cortisone injection is needed to resolve the pain and inflammation.
If symptoms persist further, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be considered to evaluate the tendons for injury. Occasionally, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair the torn tendon if a patient does not have symptomatic relief with all of the above treatments.