Lateral Elbow Pain
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is probably the most commonly used term for describing pain on the outside of the elbow. However, there are a number of other causes of lateral elbow pain which should be considered.
We outline the most common causes of lateral elbow pain, less common causes and some important conditions that should not be missed.
Most common causes of lateral elbow pain
Tennis elbow is a general term used to describe pain on the outside of the elbow. The most common causes is inflammation or degeneration of the tendon of the wrist extensor muscles as they insert into the elbow. This is also known as lateral epicondylitis or extensor tendinopathy.
Symptoms are obvious pain about on, and about 2cm down from the bony bit on the outside of the elbow (called the lateral epicondyle). The wrist will be weak and simple tasks like opening a door or picking something heavy up with one hand will be painful and difficult.
Although called tennis elbow this injury is more likely to have been caused through work related over use and repetitive strain rather than playing tennis. See out full treatment and rehabilitation program for tennis elbow which is essential if you are to stand the best chance of curing this hard to cure injury, especially if it is a long term or chronic condition.
Referred pain is where an injury or problem elsewhere in the body causes pain on the outside of the elbow. Pain can be referred from the cervical spine (or neck area) as well as the upper back.
Less common causes of pain on the outside of the elbow
Radial tunnel syndrome or entrapment of the radial nerve, also known as posterior interosseous nerve entrapment is when a nerve that passes through the elbow into the forearm becomes restricted or trapped by the tunnel it passes thorough. In the early stages symptoms are similar to tennis elbow (extensor tendonitis) and the two can be difficult to differentiate from. Symptoms also include pins and needles or tingling in the outer forearm and tenderness just below the bony bit on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle). Aching in the wrist may be felt and pain may also radiate up into the arm.
Synovitis of the elbow joint is inflammation of the synovial membrane which surrounds the joint becomes inflamed. Symptoms include pain and swelling with stiffness in the joint.
Radiohumeral bursitis can also give similar symptoms to tennis elbow. This is inflammation of a bursa or small sack of fluid which sits between the tendon and the bone to help lubricate it. An ultrasound scan can confirm the diagnosis and it is generally thought the best form of treatment other than rest is a corticosteroid injection.
Important do not miss
Osteochondritis dissecans can occur in young children, particularly those involved in throwing sports. It is when a fragment of hyaline cartilage which lines the ends of bones partially or completely flakes off. It can also affect the knee joint.