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Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Repetitive activities and overuse can injure tendons and lead to inflammation, pain, and impaired function. This is called tendonitis. Although the most common cause of tendonitis is overuse, it can also be caused by other conditions including inflammatory rheumatic diseases.
Tendonitis is a common problem. The risk of getting tendonitis increases with age and is higher in people who routinely perform activities that require repetitive movement that increases stress on susceptible tendons. Tendonitis can affect many different tendons in the body. If tendonitis is experienced around the elbow it is termed Epicondylitis, depending where on the elbow it is located. It is commonly termed Tennis Elbow (outer tendons) or Golfer’s Elbow (inner tendons). Although these terms are used epicondylitis may be caused by a variety of sports or work-related activities that involve heavy use of the wrist and forearm muscles.
Epicondylitis most often affects the dominant arm (e.g., the right arm in people who are right-handed). A person may feel localized elbow pain that radiates into the upper arm or down to the forearm; they may also experience weakness of the forearm. Symptoms of epicondylitis may occur suddenly or can develop gradually over time. Once they appear, symptoms are often persistent, although pain may come and go in some people.
Treatment focuses on resting the injured tendon to allow healing, using ice to decrease inflammation, and later promoting muscle strength. In most patients, this is extremely difficult, as it is often as a result of working activity. Tennis Elbow readily resolves with osteopathic treatment, sometimes it can be highly effective in only a couple of treatments. However, in some cases, it can be a lengthy process, particularly if the body has adapted to the repetitive activity.
Prevention should involve warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after any sporting activity, this includes stretching the muscles in the arm. Use appropriately-sized equipment. Handles and grips that are too big or too small can put more stress on the elbow. Evaluate technique of the activity, as this may be contributing to the problem.