The Healthy: What is Tennis Elbow? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Officially called lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is caused by overuse of the extensor carpi radialis brevis, a small muscle in the forearm that assists with extending the wrist. It can cause weak grip strength and pain on the outside of the elbow and when extending the wrist backward.
Because arthritis, nerve compression, tendinitis and other conditions can cause similar symptoms, Lee recommended evaluation by a physician as a first step, sooner rather than later.
"Continuing to 'play through' pain or use injured muscles or tendons can make the problem worse," he told The Healthy.
For most individuals suffering from tennis elbow, physical therapy that includes "icing and heating, anti-inflammatory measures, stretching, and eventual muscle stimulation and strengthening" is the best treatment, according to Lee.
Because recovery can take as long as 12 months, he advised patients to approach rehabilitation as "more of a marathon than a sprint."
If symptoms don’t improve after several months of physical therapy, Lee said that anti-inflammatory medication and bracing during activities that cause elbow pain might help. He recommended choosing an adjustable, circular brace long enough to fit around the forearm. "Braces with Velcro allow you to customize the support to your elbow," he told The Healthy.
Lee said surgical intervention, which is effective but a last resort, might be needed if other forms of treatment fail.
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