What is Lateral Epicondylitis, symptoms and how to treat

Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, is an inflammation of the tendons of the wrist extensor muscles caused by the repetitive strain of these muscles, being more common after 30 years of age.

This injury is more common in workers who perform very repetitive movements in their daily lives, such as those who need to type, write or draw, but it also affects people who train at the gym more than 5 times a week and tennis players.

Lateral epicondylitis is curable and its treatment must be done with a combination of drugs and physiotherapy, which, in the most severe cases, may also include surgery. Only about 20% require surgical treatment.

Symptoms of lateral epicondylitis

Symptoms of lateral epicondylitis can appear for no apparent reason and include:

  • Elbow pain, more specifically located on the outer side when the hand is facing upwards. The pain arises or worsens in a handshake, when opening the door, combing hair, writing or typing. The pain can radiate to the forearm.
  • Decreased strength in the arm or wrist, making it difficult to hold a glass of water for more than 1 minute.

The symptoms appear gradually over weeks or months and must be evaluated by the general practitioner or orthopedist, or by the physiotherapist who can also make your diagnosis.

Treatment for lateral epicondylitis

Treatment for lateral epicondylitis can last from 8 weeks to a few months and is usually done with:

  • Physiotherapy that includes stretching exercises, cold massage and electrical stimulation of the muscles;
  • Use of an adhesive tape on the forearm, called kinesio tape, to restrict the movement of the affected muscles and tendons;
  • Acupuncture can also be indicated, bringing pain relief;
  • Anti-inflammatory remedies, such as Ibuprofen, for a maximum of 7 days, apply ointment such as Diclofenac daily, in cases where the treatment does not diminish the symptoms, the doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid injections.

During treatment, it is recommended to rest from activities that triggered the pain, so it is recommended to reduce the pace of training at the gym and avoid doing sports such as tennis, golf, volleyball or handball, for example.

Physiotherapy can help control pain and improve movement and should be indicated by the physical therapist. Some resources that can be used are equipment that fight inflammation, such as tension, ultrasound, laser, shock waves and iontophoresis. Use of ice packs and strengthening and stretching exercises, as well as cross massage techniques are also useful to speed healing.

Shock wave therapy is particularly indicated when epicondylitis is chronic and persists for more than 6 months, with no improvement with medication, physical therapy and rest. In the most severe cases or when the symptoms last for more than 1 year, even after starting treatment, it may be indicated to have surgery for epicondylitis.

See how to do this massage correctly and how food can help in the following video: