Elbow pain that is actually caused by straightening your wrist

In recent weeks I have had several clients present with pain in their elbow, and they are sometimes surprised to learn that this pain is caused by overuse of their wrist straightening muscles. Tennis Elbow, also known as Lateral Epicondylitis, is a condition where you feel pain on the outside of your elbow on the bony prominence where the forearm muscles that straighten your wrist and hand attach. 


Whist the pain is experienced on the outside of the elbow, the cause of the pain is from repetitively straightening your wrist. Despite the name suggesting that playing tennis is the cause, this is very rarely the case. Recently my clients have developed Lateral Epicondylitis from mountain bike riding, doing weights in the gym and even weeding in the garden! Lateral Epicondylitis is also common in carpenters, musicians and others who frequently practice an activity that leads to overuse of the wrist extensor muscles. 


Lateral Epicondylitis can be diagnosed by completing a series of clinical tests specific for this condition and discussing your subject history. An ultrasound can further investigate the tendons around the outside of your elbow and can assist in diagnosing Lateral Epicondylitis but it is not always needed. 


Lateral Epicondylitis can be acute, chronic or both, which is complicated I know! Your Hand Therapist can provide you with a range of different treatments which may include a wrist splint to rest your sore muscles and provide support during aggravating activities. 

Once your pain has settled your Hand Therapist can prescribe strengthening exercises to restore strength and function in your elbow and hand. Other treatments include paraffin wax, soft tissue massage and education regarding activity modification that is required. In my experience the gradual progression of strengthening exercises using a theraband can be very effective for managing pain and ensuring function long term.