Lateral Epicondylitis is also commonly referred to as Tennis Elbow, which is a condition where there is a partial tear in the area on the outer (lateral) aspect of the elbow where the tendons that extend the wrist originate.
The condition is called “Tennis Elbow” because, due to the sudden impact of hitting a tennis ball with the backhand stroke, there can be a tear in the tissues where the tendon attaches to the bone.
The diagnosis is usually made on the history and physical exam, and usually the xrays are negative. Part of the reason this condition occurs is because, partly due to aging (sorry!) and partly due to repeated trauma and the repair process, the tissue gets stiffer, less flexible, and instead of stretching, tears some.
The treatment strategy is to try to make the tissue more flexible.
A tennis elbow stretch can be done by simultaneously
1) extending the elbow,
2) flexing the wrist (palm down), and
3) moving the wrist to what is called ulnar deviation (moving the hand to the little finger side of the hand).
Doing these motions at the same time will lead to a feeling of stretching at the outer side of the elbow, to try to make the tissues less stiff.
Other treatment options include the tennis elbow brace, which supports the injured tendon,
or injection (usually of some steriod, cortisone preparation)
…and of course, formal physical therapy (where other modalities like ultrasound might be helpful), and surgery, which involves removing the chronically inflamed tissue, reattaching the tendon to the bone, and involves a healing period of about six weeks.