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What is lateral epicondylitis?

Lateral epicondylitis is a repetitive stress injury that affects the tendons in the forearm. These tendons attach to the upper arm right above the elbow joint, and when they become irritated, it causes pain just above the elbow joint along the outside edge.

Most people know lateral epicondylitis by the colloquial name of tennis elbow. However, many professions require frequent movements of the hand and wrist which can contribute to lateral epicondylitis.

What causes lateral epicondylitis?

According to the Mayo Clinic, lateral epicondylitis results from frequent, repetitive extension of the wrist. This is a motion that causes the hand to move backward. When the tendons become irritated due to lateral epicondylitis, it causes pain in the upper arm that may radiate down the forearm. This can cause weakness that makes gripping motions difficult.

What types of jobs can cause lateral epicondylitis?

Theoretically, any job that requires frequent wrist extension can result in lateral epicondylitis. For example, butchers are at risk because of the motions required to chop meat. Other professionals at risk for lateral epicondylitis include the following:

  • Painters
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers

It is also common for people who work on computers to experience lateral epicondylitis, especially on the arm that operates the mouse.

What are the treatments for lateral epicondylitis?

Doctors typically recommend nonsurgical treatments for lateral epicondylitis, at least at first. These include ice, rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Conservative treatment for lateral epicondylitis may also include physical therapy.

If symptoms persist despite conservative treatment measures, doctors may try more invasive treatments for lateral epicondylitis, such as injections or surgery.