Lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow, is one of the most common reasons patients see a medical professional for elbow pain. The most common tennis elbow symptoms include pain along the elbow joint, pain when bending the arm or picking up objects, and pain that runs down the forearm toward the wrist. These symptoms are almost always felt in the dominate arm, so a left handed patient is more likely to feel pain in his left arm. Patients usually report a gradual increase in pain over time; it is generally not from a single instance or injury.
Tennis elbow symptoms can be caused by repetitive motion of any type — not just playing tennis. Painting a ceiling or high wall, hammering nails, and some handicrafts can trigger this condition for some patients. Causes of tennis elbow differ from individual to individual, but once it has developed, most patients report some of the same symptoms.
Someone suffering from tennis elbow will usually have pain in the elbow joint, which can range from mild to severe and is usually strongest along the outside of the elbow. Some sufferers are unable to fully flex the elbow joint, while others can, but feel pain when bending or extending the arm. The bony bump that protrudes from the end of the elbow can be a source of pain as well.
Other common symptoms of tennis elbow include pain when grasping or picking up items or pain stemming from normal use. Patients are advised to seek medical help if the pain persists for more than a few days. Over-the-counter pain relievers can alleviate some of the discomfort, but if it does not go away, a visit to the office of a medical professional is recommended.
A healthcare professional may recommend different types of anti-inflammatory medications to ease the tennis elbow symptoms. If the symptoms can't be treated with medication, a cortisone injection may help reduce swelling and eliminate pain. In some cases, the elbow may need to be immobilized for a few days with a sling or brace to promote healing. Occasionally, a combination of these techniques will be used to treat tennis elbow.
Physical therapy and gentle strength exercises are sometimes recommended for patients suffering from this condition. In some rare cases, surgery may be required. Most medical professionals only consider surgical options for tennis elbow when all other treatments have been unsuccessful. Surgery is considered a last resort, and most sufferers respond well to surgical intervention.