Most of the muscles that extend down your wrist are attached to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow that is known as the lateral epicondyle. Sometimes, either by injury or overuse, the site where these muscles insert can start to become either irritated or inflamed. This condition is known as lateral epicondylitis or "tennis elbow"- although the majority of those affected do not have to play tennis.
The most common way for this condition to be created is from an activity that is involving repetitive wrist extension. Some examples of this include i.e., tennis, carpentry, bricklaying, knitting, playing piano, typing, or lifting objects with your palm facing down. The condition is much more likely to strike your dominant arm.
The pain will typically begin as an intermittent or gradual discomfort during activity and then it progresses so that even simple activities, like holding a coffee cup, can become painful. Pain may in some cases increase when you straighten your arm, grip a doorknob or shake hands. The pain can also vary from mild to severe and commonly radiates into the forearm, sometimes to the wrist.
Without any treatment, "tennis elbow" will often linger - 80% of patients still report pain after one year. In most cases, the first step in a successful treatment plan is to modify or eliminate activities that cause these symptoms. At night, do your best to avoid sleeping with your elbow compressed beneath your pillow. Also, you should try to avoid lifting heavy objects with your palm facing down. Tennis or racquetball players may need to consider changing to a lighter racket or try a smaller handle.
If the situation calls for it we may prescribe a "counterforce brace" for your elbow. This brace will act as a temporary new attachment site for your muscles and will help to reduce the stress that is being placed on your elbow. We may prescribe some sports creams and home ice massage as well. Always remember to be Be patient with your recovery!