Lateral epicondylitis is a musculoskeletal condition that causes pain at or just above the elbow. You may hear it referred to as tennis elbow. However, while it is common in tennis players, other activities can cause it as well.
Lateral epicondylitis is an overuse injury. If your job requires you to make repetitive motions with your arms, you may be at risk of developing it.
What causes lateral epicondylitis?
Lateral epicondylitis involves the tendon that connects to the muscle that moves the back of your hand toward your forearm, a movement called wrist extension. The tendon attaches to the humerus, i.e., the upper bone in the arm, providing resistance that allows the muscle to move. Repeated wrist extension can put strain on the tendon, causing it to become irritated and inflamed.
What occupations are at risk for lateral epicondylitis?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, repetitive motions of the hands, especially those involving wrist extension, put you at risk for lateral epicondylitis. For example, if you are a carpenter, you are at risk for the condition because of your frequent hand tool usage. Dentists, musicians and meat cutters also have an increased risk of developing lateral epicondylitis.
A job that involves frequent computer usage can also put you at risk of lateral epicondylitis. It is not necessarily the typing that puts pressure on your tendon; more often, it is mouse usage.
What treatment options are available for lateral epicondylitis?
At first, your doctor may recommend conservative treatments for lateral epicondylitis. You may have to rest for a while and avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy or bracing. If these treatments do not work, your doctor may recommend steroid injections, a minimally invasive treatment.
While most cases of lateral epicondylitis improve with these types of treatment, you may need surgery if your symptoms do not get any better.