LATERAL EPICONDYLITIS (TENNIS ELBOW)
Tennis elbow causes pain that starts on the outside bump of the elbow, the lateral epicondyle. The forearm muscles that bend the wrist back (the extensors) attach on the lateral epicondyle and are connected by a single tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bone. When you bend your wrist back or grip with your hand, the wrist extensor muscles contract. The contracting muscles pull on the extensor tendon. The forces that pull on these tendons can build when you grip things, hit a tennis ball in a backhand swing in tennis, or do other similar actions.
MEDIAL EPICONDYLITIS (GOLFER’S ELBOW)
Golfer's elbow causes pain that starts on the inside bump of the elbow, the medial epicondyle. Wrist flexors are the muscles of the forearm that pull the hand forward. The wrist flexors are on the palm side of the forearm. Most of the wrist flexors attach to one main tendon on the medial epicondyle. This tendon is called the common flexor tendon. The wrist flexor muscles contract when you flex your wrist, twist your forearm down, or grip with your hand. The contracting muscles pull on the flexor tendon. The forces that pull on the tendon can build when you grip a golf club during a golf swing or do other similar actions.
The initial goal of your physical therapy treatments will be to reduce the inflammation at the area as well as to reduce the strain on the muscles that may be causing some of the pain. Your therapist will utilize a variety of hands-on techniques to loosen up the elbow to decrease the stress on the area as well as to decrease the inflammation. Your therapist will also use various exercises to decrease the inflammation and gradually stretch and strengthen the forearm. Additionally, your therapist may apply electrical stimulation to ease pain and improve the healing of the tendon, or iontophoresis which uses a mild electrical current to push anti-inflammatory medicine to the sore area. This treatment is especially helpful for patients who can't tolerate injections. Your therapy sessions will also include advice on ways to decrease repeated stress to the elbow while at work or during extra-curricular activities, and may include prescription of a brace to wear during activities.