In medicine, lateral epicondylitis, also called tennis elbow, is "a condition characterized by pain in or near the lateral humeral epicondyle or in the forearm extensor muscle mass as a result of unusual strain. It occurs in tennis players as well as housewives, artisans, and violinists." Carpenters who do a lot of hammering are also susceptible to it; it also can come from computer overuse, especially of a mouse. In other words, it may be caused either by a single event, or it may be a cumulative trauma disorder. Cumulative injury is more common.
Mechanism of injury
It appears to be caused by "repetitive and forceful forearm supination and pronation, as well as overuse or weakness (or both) of the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ERCB) and extensor carpi radialis longis muscles of the forearm, which originate from the lateral epicondyle of the elbow." It may also involve the extensor digitorum, and extensor carpi ulnaris.
The radial nerve splits into the superficial radial nerve and posterior interosseus nerve (PIN) at the radiocapitellar joint. If the PIN is entrapped by pericapsular structures, lateral epicondylitis can cause radial tunnel syndrome.
It is most common in patients between 40 and 60 years of age, often with pain beginning 24-72 hours after especially active wrist use. Pain is worst over the lateral elbow, may radiate down the posterior forearm, and the patient can often identify the origin of the pain as 1.5 cm distal to the origin of the ECRB. "Pain can vary from being mild (eg, with aggravating activities like tennis or the repeated use of a hand tool), or it can be such severe pain that simple activities like picking up and holding a coffee cup (ie, "coffee cup sign") will act as a trigger for the pain."
The role of exercises is not clear. A sometimes efficacious means for tennis players to combat it is to change tennis rackets, moving to a much smaller size of the handle, thereby reducing the tension needed to grip it.
The role of orthotic devices is not clear.
Botulinum toxin may reduce pain.
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