Epicondylitis is a musculoskeletal disorder which causes chronic inflammation in an epicondyle of the elbow. The epicondyles exist as two protrusions of the bone at the elbow. One points away from the body and is known as Lateral and the other points towards the body and is the Medial. Tendons attach from the forearm to these two points on the bone.
When there is chronic overuse of the elbow joint it can cause two common conditions that effect the Lateral and Medial Epicondyle. These are known as lateral epicondylitis (commonly known as tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (sometimes called golfers elbow). Both conditions are caused by repetitive stress and overuse of the elbow joint. Inflammation occurs due to stress on the area and small tears caused to the muscle can result in either lateral epicondylitis or medial epicondylitis when the injury is given insufficient time to heal.
Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
Tennis elbow (known clinically as lateral epicondylitis) occurs when there is an overuse of the tendons and muscles of the forearm which are located close to the elbow joint (lateral epicondyle). Sufferers of tennis elbow will find that the outside of the elbow is tender and painful.
The repeated actions of striking the ball playing tennis has given rise to the term “tennis elbow” because a reasonably high number of tennis players do go onto develop tennis elbow at one time or another. But lateral epicondylitis is not a condition exclusive to tennis players, it can develop in anyone that undertakes activity that places repetitive motion stress on the forearm extensors. So it is common to see lateral epicondylitis in a number of professions and amongst sportspeople of different disciplines. For example, computer operators or factory workers have been known to develop the condition due to repetitious tasks in the workplace using the arms whilst people that play “throwing” or “striking” sports can be at risk.
Sufferers will usually encounter a tender spot which is located below the lateral epicondyle on the outside of the elbow. Pain is typically gradual but can exacerbate when the affected area is used for an activity such as a racquet sport, etc. and as the movements of the extensor muscles causes the pain it is not uncommon for there to be pain present in the middle finger of the hand. See more details in our symptoms section.
Medial epicondylitis (golfers elbow)
Medial epicondylitis (otherwise known as golfers elbow) is another form of repetitive strain injury that causes localised pain where the flexor tendon of the forearm connects to the medial epicondyle at the elbow. Similar to tennis elbow this condition is caused by the overuse of muscles and tendons via repetitive tasks or sports. Golfers can suffer from this condition but it is not exclusively the case – essentially any task that requires the repeated extension of the elbow could contribute to a person developing medial epicondylitis.
A sufferer will feel a dull ache around the medial epicondyle which can be exacerbated by certain activities such as shaking hands or grasping objects.
Although golfers elbow is quite a common injury is it roughly about one fifth as common at the related tennis elbow condition. Golfers elbow can sometimes be associated with a related condition called cubital tunnel syndrome. See our sections on symptoms, treatment and prevention for more details.
If you are showing the symptoms of either medial epicondylitis or lateral epicondylitis you may wish to see a medical professional to discuss your condition. It is possible that epicondylitis can be caused as a consequence of a person’s work routine. If this is the case you may be able to make a claim for epicondylitis injury compensation.