Epicondylitis: Description, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is epicondylitis?

The epicondylitis, very frequent, can become the enemy of several workers and sportsmen. It is mainly caused by repetitive actions and can cause severe pain in the involved elbow. Despite its popular name “tennis elbow”, epicondylitis does not affect most tennis players.

To understand the source of the problem, let’s start by explaining the main structures involved.

On the outer side of the forearm we have a group of muscles called extensors. These muscles are responsible for several movements of the hand and wrist such as:

  • Unfold the fingers (extension of the fingers)
  • Send wrist up (wrist extension)
  • Rotate the forearm upward (supine)

Most of the extensor muscles in the forearm have one thing in common: their tendon is inserted into the lateral epicondyle of the humerus (bone projection on the outer surface of the elbow). It is in this specific place that inflammation is formed when one is suffering from epicondylitis.

But what is a tendon?

The tendons are the extensions present at the extremities of the muscles which fix them to the bones. They are primarily used to transmit muscle strength to the bone to which it is attached to generate motion.

When subjected to repetitive stresses, the tendons can suffer from micro-tears and cause certain pathologies such as epicondylitis.

What causes epicondylitis?

Repetitive Stress – The main cause of epicondylitis is undoubtedly the overwork of the muscles inserting on the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. In fact, whether at work (ex: office work, carpenter, carpenter, musician, painter, gardener, etc.) or in a sport (eg tennis, badminton, baseball pitcher, etc.), activities requiring Repetition of motion several times a day is a significant risk factor for epicondylitis.

Inadequate rest time – Overwork is one thing, but it is also important to allow adequate rest time after an activity that has caused micro-tears in the tendons. If the recovery is too short, the tendons can, in the long term, not have the chance to heal. This will be followed by an increased risk of epicondylitis.

Trauma – A direct blow to the external aspect of the elbow, a fall or a false movement with a heavy load can also cause an epicondylitis.

Poor posture at work – An inadequate work environment, such as a poorly adapted desk, can cause repetitive stress in the elbow. It is therefore important to be sure to have good ergonomics at work to avoid this type of injury.

What are the symptoms of epicondylitis? Symptom epicondylitis

Pain – The main symptom of an epicondylitis is pain sitting on the external aspect of the involved elbow. It can also radiate along the forearm to the hand. Sensitivity is especially felt during certain repetitive gestures but may, in more advanced cases, be present even at rest. As a general rule, palpation of the lateral epicondyle will be very painful in epicondylitis patients.

It should also be noted that pain may be present when lifting objects, even if they are very light (think for example of the cup of coffee in the morning).

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Treatment of epicondylitis

Epicondylitis can become very incapacitating for both workers and athletes. It can indeed be very painful and limit the practice of certain activities. The longer we wait to have it treated, the more inflammation will be installed and the longer the healing time will be. It is therefore important not to wait until you have it treated. Chiropractic is seen as a natural treatment of choice to treat epicondylitis.

What can a chiropractor, do for me?

Once the diagnosis of epicondylitis is confirmed, it is first important to find the cause. Then, the chiropractor will seek either to eradicate the causative movement, or to give advice in order to modify it so that it becomes the least irritating possible.

From the point of view of treatment, the chiropractor will opt for therapies aimed at relaxing the musculature of the extensors located on the outer face of the forearm. Also, he will perform slight manipulations in the elbow and wrist involved in order to restore the best possible mobility to these joints.

Kinesio taping tapings may also be applied to reduce the tension in the muscles of the forearm between treatments.

A splint may also be advisable to be worn at work or when playing a sport.

Should I put hot or cold?

Because epicondylitis is inflammatory in nature, it is important to prioritize ice to relieve symptoms.

It should be applied for 10 to 15 minutes on the external aspect of the elbow. This therapy can be repeated 3 to 4 times a day, always spaced at least an hour apart.