Lateral elbow tendinopathy is a prevalent form of elbow injury, frequently observed in individuals engaged in tennis or golf, particularly elite players who undergo frequent practice sessions. This condition primarily affects the tendons in the affected area, which serve as bands of tissue connecting the muscles to the bones. Tendon-related issues can arise due to various factors, including repetitive activities and trauma to the region.
Tendon injuries often manifest as pain, inflammation, and difficulty in joint mobility, commonly referred to as tendonitis. While this condition can occur with age, it is most prevalent in cases of overuse. Although conditions like rheumatic disease can contribute to the development of tendonitis, such instances are relatively less common. Renowned orthopedic surgeon and specialist, Dr. Brian Cable, discusses lateral elbow tendinopathy and the widespread injuries that result from repetitive physical motion.
How Lateral Elbow Tendinopathy Occurs
Lateral elbow tendinopathy (LET) typically arises as an overuse injury, frequently observed in tennis players who exert excessive strain on their elbows during practice and gameplay. The extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon is commonly involved in LET, predominantly due to the overuse of the wrist extensor and supinator muscles.
“In the context of tennis,” says Dr. Brian Cable, “several factors contribute to the occurrence of LET. Excessive load on the elbow, the size of the racquet handle, and the weight of the racquet itself can play a role.”
The transfer of shock from the tennis racquet to the elbow is believed to be another significant factor in the development of LET. This shock is transmitted to the elbow joint, leading to the onset of pain. Players with greater wrist extensor activity during ball impact or early follow-through are more prone to experiencing this shock-related pain. Conversely, players who utilize a double handled backhand often do not develop LET, as the nondominant hand absorbs a significant portion of the shock, minimizing its transmission to the elbow.
Common Symptoms of LET
LET presents specific symptoms that help identify it as the underlying cause of pain and impaired mobility in the elbow. While various risks can affect the elbow, the following symptoms are indicative of LET:
- Pain localized over the lateral elbow – Individuals with LET commonly experience pain specifically in the lateral (outer) aspect of the elbow. This pain can radiate into the forearm, extending either upward toward the upper arm or downward into the forearm.
- Decreased grip strength – Many people with LET notice a reduction in their grip strength. The pain and inflammation associated with the condition can affect the ability to firmly grasp objects or perform tasks that require a strong grip.
- Weakness in the forearm – As LET progresses, weakness may develop in the affected forearm. This weakness can impact various activities that rely on forearm strength, such as playing tennis, golf, or executing backhand shots.
- Gradual or sudden onset of pain – The pain associated with LET can manifest differently from person to person. Some individuals may experience a sudden onset of pain, while others may notice a gradual development of symptoms over time.
Imaging techniques may not provide conclusive evidence for LET, underscoring the importance of considering these characteristic symptoms in diagnosing the condition.
Notes Dr. Brian Cable, “By recognizing these specific manifestations, healthcare professionals can better identify and address lateral elbow tendinopathy.”
LET Treatment Options
The treatment options for elbow tendinopathy (LET) are tailored to individual needs and limitations. Rehabilitation exercises play a crucial role in improving LET, focusing on enhancing tendon function and strength. In contrast, injections into the elbow provide only temporary pain relief and lack long-term benefits. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy shows promise in promoting healing and long-term restructuring of the affected area.
“While immediate pain relief is important, it is crucial to recognize that a gradual return to activities is necessary,” says Dr. Brian Cable.
Some individuals may benefit from arm braces or engage in rehabilitation programs to support their recovery and physical movement. Addressing the underlying issue is paramount. Making adjustments, such as using a racquet size that suits the individual’s needs or improving technique, can help minimize the risk of recurrence. In certain cases, more advanced treatment approaches, including surgery, may be necessary.
Elbow tendinopathy can significantly improve with the right treatment plan, allowing individuals to resume their favorite activities and reduce pain and mobility issues. A comprehensive understanding of the condition and the selection of appropriate treatment options are key to achieving optimal outcomes.
Dr. Brian Cable’s Commitment to Excellence
Dr. Brian Cable is a renowned figure in the realm of orthopedic surgery, celebrated for his vast expertise and unwavering commitment to patient well-being. With a distinguished academic background, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA and successfully completed his Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. Dr. Cable’s exceptional academic achievements are harmoniously complemented by his fervent dedication to providing extraordinary care to his patients.