The English bibliography also uses the term “tennis elbow”, however, it is an injury with a ... misleading name. Elbow epicondylitis (lateral epicondylitis, another term in the literature) is not only a “privilege” of tennis players. In fact, it is about are tiny tears in the extensor carpi radialis brevis – namely, in the muscle, which helps in the stabilization of the wrist when the elbow is extended - which are mainly attributed to repetitive movements or hand overuse.
HIGH RISK GROUPS
Whether it is about a chef, a professional athlete, or an amateur painter, anyone who frequently and intensely uses the forearm muscles can suffer from epicondylitis. Statistics, however, indicate that this specific and particularly painful tendonitis “strikes” mainly women aged 30-50, not even excluding children. Only 5% of the incidents are associated with tennis - usually in these cases the disruption is acute and is attributed to poor technique.
WHICH ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The most common symptoms, which develop gradually, over days or even weeks, and usually after particularly intense periods of fatigue, are pain or burning on the outside of the elbow. So, over time, it becomes extremely painful for the patient to lift or hold things, even touching the outside of their elbow. It is also very likely that an epicondylitis is found in both arms.
WHICH IS THE BEST TREATMENT?
Early diagnosis leads to the best treatment. The orthopaedist shall ask the patient to perform some simple tests, while they may ask for an ultrasonography and / or an MRI. Usually, conservative therapy through rest, ice therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling, or physiotherapy, are applied. In order for the muscles and tendons to recover, it may be necessary to use special straps on the forearm. Steroid injections help directly and very effectively.
If the symptoms do not subside after about 8-12 weeks - a rare event - the doctor may recommend surgery. Surgical removal of the affected muscles and tendons (scar tissue) is performed, most of the time.