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Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)

Several tendons and muscles attached to the outside of the elbow and to the wrist can become injured in this common pathology known as tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis. It is usually the origin of one muscle, the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis, that develops a micro-tear.

What causes lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)?

This condition usually results from abnormal stresses in the very substance of the tendon, resulting in a microscopic tear and scarring. Typical causes are sports or work related activities.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain around the lateral elbow, that is typically made worse with wrist extension.
  • Swelling is sometimes seen over the inflamed area.

How to diagnose it?

Clinical examination shows:

  • Pain upon palpation at lateral epicondyle
  • Resisted extension of the elbow reproduces the pain

X-rays and MRI can show abnormalities and help with a more accurate diagnosis.

Functional treatment

Typically, you should start with resting the elbow and wrist, physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory medications. Modification of work or sports activities can be useful too. Sometimes, a cortisone injection is considered.

Surgery

When conservative measures fail, minimally invasive surgery can be performed and the damaged tendon will be cleaned (debrided) and lengthened through a small 2 cm incision that is made over the lateral elbow. Therapy will be required postoperatively for several weeks.

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