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Lateral Epicondylitis, aka. Tennis Elbow

About Tennis Elbow

tennis elbow anatomical image

Tennis Elbow is a form of tendinosis (chronic degeneration of the tendon) that is derived from swelling and tenderness on and around the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle (small bony part on the outside of your elbow). Tennis Elbow tendinosis is commonly caused from the overuse of the tendons located in your forearm that help to extend your wrist and fingers. The wear and tear on these tendons is a result of small tears in your tissue that don't heal properly. The inability of your tendon to heal properly causes it to deteriorate until the tissues become very thin, and eventually wear out.

Chronic

Tendinosis will get worse over time if not dealt with properly. This is essentialy what chronic means; the inability to heal the tendinosis will cause it to persist for a very long period of time (ie. years). The main long-term problem associated with tennis elbow is failed healing, not inflammation; if you cannot rest the elbow while you are healing (ie. not doing the repetitive task that started it in the first place) then your odds of healing it for good are quite low. In 75% of cases, tennis elbow occurs in the dominant arm. It affects about an equal number of men and women, generally between the ages of 35-65 years old. Tennis elbow is often confused with Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) another overuse injury. However golfer's elbow causes pain and tenderness on the inside of the elbow (the medial epicondyle) instead of the outside of the elbow. Tennis elbow is sometimes misdiagnosed as bursitis or arthritis.

Tendinosis: What is it?

microscopic view of tendinosis

Tendonosis is a noninflammatory, degenerative condition of the collagen fibers in the tendon often caused by repetitive stress injury of the tendon fibers. As the collagen breaks down the typically straight and flexible fibers become a tangled mess with little pockets of jelly.

Tendonosis is caused by repetitive motion which causes an accumulation of microinjuries. The tendon tries to repair itself but eventually the breakdown of the collagen fibers exceeds the repair and the new collagen is produced with an abnormal structure and composition.

Unlike tendonitis, there are no inflammatory cells with a tendonosis injury making it hard to diagnose visually as there are no visible symptoms such as swelling, heat and redness. However, both injuries cause pain, tenderness and stiffness of the joints.

If not treated correctly the tendon will continue to degenerate causing further injury.

Alternate Names and/or Related Conditions of Elbow Tendinosis:

  • Epitrochlear bursitis
  • Acute elbow tendonitis
  • Olecranon bursitis
  • Wii elbow
  • Plaster's elbow
  • Mechanic's elbow
  • Painter's elbow
  • Elbow strain
 
 
 
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