Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis
Explaining lateral and medial epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, and what causes it, with treatment options based on a conservative model of care.
What is Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis?
Lateral epicondylitis, or “tennis elbow,” is an inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. Medial epicondylitis, or “golfer’s elbow,” is an inflammation of the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the inside of the bone at your elbow.
What causes these injuries?
Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow typically result from repetitive, forceful gripping and lifting. The conditions can be caused by sports other than golf and tennis, as well as work-related activities that involve heavy use of the wrist and forearm muscles (such as the movements of plumbers, painters, carpenters, and butchers).
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?
Common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Pain or burning on the outer part of your elbow
- Weak grip strength (such as holding a racquet, turning a wrench, or shaking hands)
The pain may be mild at first and gradually worsen over time. There is often no specific injury associated with the start of symptoms.
What are the symptoms of golfer’s elbow?
The pain of golfer’s elbow may appear suddenly or gradually. It’s characterized by:
- Pain and tenderness on the inner side of your elbow
- Stiffness in the elbow
- Weakness in your hands and wrists
- A numbness or tingling sensation that radiates into one or more fingers
How are tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow diagnosed?
Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are diagnosed by your physician through a physical exam. Your doctor may apply pressure to the affected area or ask you to move your elbow, wrist, and fingers in various ways. An x-ray can help rule out other possible causes of elbow pain, such as a fracture or arthritis.
How are tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow treated?
The vast majority (80-95 percent) of patients with these injuries have success with nonsurgical treatment, such as rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (aspirin or ibuprofen), review of sports equipment to ensure proper fitting, physical therapy, steroid injections, or a forearm brace. If your symptoms do not respond after six to twelve months of nonsurgical treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery.