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Monday, March 23, 2009

What is Tennis Elbow ?

[Extracted from]

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition that affects the outside or lateral side of the elbow and can cause pain even when gripping or carrying a very light object like a coffee cup. About half of all tennis players will experience tennis elbow at some point in their lives, yet tennis players only account for about 5% of all those who suffer from tennis elbow, as the condition can be brought on by many activities.

Tennis elbow is often confused with two other painful conditions: golfer's elbow or medial epicondylitis, and bursitis. Golfer's elbow is brought about by the same types of activities as tennis elbow, but the pain is primarily felt on the inside of the elbow rather than the outside, while the pain of bursitis is at the back of the elbow.

Tennis elbow will typically cause recurring pain at the outside top of the forearm just below the elbow, and pain may radiate down the arm. Bending the arm, lifting or straightening the arm will also cause pain due to inflamed muscles and tendons. Typical bouts of tennis elbow last 6-12 weeks, but it can also last shorter or longer periods of time.

Tennis elbow is caused by small tears in the tendons and muscles. Tendons anchor muscles to bone. When tendons tear it takes much longer to heal than muscle tissue because tendons receive less blood and oxygen than muscles.

Once tendons and muscles are injured, the site is always vulnerable to re-tearing. Further injury can lead to hemorrhaging and calcium deposits in the tissues. A protein called collagen can also create inflammation that can press on the radial nerve that controls muscles in the arm and hand.

Because tennis elbow is associated with injury to the tendon it is often referred to as tendonitis, however, if the bone itself feels sore and muscles are involved it is epicondylitis or tennis elbow. Although tennis elbow involves inflammation of the tissues at the injury site, it does not cause swelling of the arm, which could be indicative of arthritis, gout or even infection.

The recommended treatment for tennis elbow is to stop whatever activities have caused it and allow the arm to rest until all pain has ceased. At that point massage and exercise may be of value to strengthen the arm against further injury. Slow gentle stretching of the arm for 10-15 minutes before engaging in any activity is also recommended.

For special cases of tennis elbow your doctor may suggest anti-inflammatory creams, injections or even surgery. However surgery is a last resort suggested to less than 3% of those who suffer from tennis elbow. In this case tears in the tendon may be repaired or the tendon may be cut free of the bone to release the stress, though this is rarely chosen as it leaves the tendon useless.

Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Outside of Elbow - Cause & Symptoms

The onset of pain, on the outside (lateral) of the elbow, is usually gradual with tenderness felt on or below the joint's bony prominence. Movements such as gripping, lifting and carrying tend to be troublesome.

Golfer’s Elbow (medial epicondylitis)
Inside of Elbow - Cause & Symptoms

The causes of golfers elbow are similar to tennis elbow but pain and tenderness are felt on the inside (medial) of the elbow, on or around the joint's bony prominence.

Back of Elbow - Cause & Symptoms

Often due to excessive leaning on the joint or a direct blow or fall onto the tip of the elbow. A lump can often be seen and the elbow is painful at the back of the joint.

To prevent tennis elbow from recurring, experts suggest modifying the activity that caused it, stretching or warming up the arm, exercising the arm to build muscle strength, and resting the arm between activities.

If you are experiencing persistent pain in your elbow or arm it is always best to see your doctor in order to have the problem professionally diagnosed and treated

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