Lateral Elbow Pain
The most common term for pain on the outside of the elbow is Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis). However, there are a number of other causes of lateral elbow pain which should be considered as well as acute elbow injuries such as ligament sprains and fractures. Other potential causes of pain on the outside of the elbow include referred pain, radial tunnel syndrome, synovitis, bursitis and osteochondritis dissecans.
Tennis Elbow is a general term used to describe outer elbow pain. The most common causes are inflammation or degeneration of the tendon where the wrist extensor muscles insert into the elbow. This can occur from sports, like tennis, and other activities that put stress on the elbow muscles. It is also known as lateral epicondylitis or extensor tendinopathy.
Radial tunnel syndrome, or radial nerve entrapment as it is sometimes called, is when the radial nerve gets compressed or restricted in the tunnel it passes through. This elbow injury is more often caused by rotation of the wrist/lower arm rather than repetitive extension like tennis elbow, but the symptoms of both these injuries can be similar.
Osteochondritis Dissecans is a fragmentation of the cartilage and sometimes the underlying bone within a joint. This is common in adolescents as the ends of the bones are not yet fully hardened. This elbow injury can be caused and exacerbated by throwing sports, so resting from this activity can help to ease the pain. Read more on the symptoms, causes and treatments.
Synovitis of the elbow joint is inflammation of the synovial membrane which surrounds the joint. Symptoms include elbow joint pain and redness over the area. However, synovitis is itself usually caused by another condition, including an injury to the joint or an illness like cancer. Because of this, synovitis can indicate a serious problem so getting medical advice is essential.
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. This elbow injury can be caused by a direct impact to the joint or arm, with some common symptoms being elbow pain, swelling and restricted movement.