Elbow tendinopathy is not an uncommon condition. It is sometimes referred to as tennis elbow or golf elbow because it commonly occurs in people who engage in these activities at a high level. It can be frustrating and even limiting for those who have this condition, as it can cause significant pain and limit game play. Yet, many people do not know much about it, including how it occurs or what can be done to relieve the discomfort they feel. There are a few things you should know about median epicondylitis tendinopathy.
#1: What Causes It
There are tendons located within the elbow. These are tough bands of tissue that help connect the muscles to the bones and aid in their function. The most common cause of media epicondylitis, also known as golfer’s elbow, is the repetitive motions of the game or other activities like it. The repeated swings of a golf club, for example, may cause the overuse of the tendons.
In tennis players, it may occur because of predominance of the forehand and the serve that is common in the common modern game. This may be due to the overuse of this area as a result of that type of movement on a continued basis.
#2: What Are the Common Symptoms of It?
Medial elbow tendinopathy, sometimes called MET, may occur suddenly with a burst of pain during game play or other activity. In other cases, it develops over a period of time, often worsening until it is hard to ignore. It can also range from being very mild and easy to overlook to severe in that it may limit the function and mobility of the joint itself because it is painful.
The most common symptoms of media elbow tendinopathy include:
- Elbow stiffness or difficulty in using it
- Pain that occurs on the inside of the elbow specifically
- Hand and wrist weakness, or being unable to engage the way you used to
- Some people also experience numbness or a tingling sensation on the fingers. This often involves the little finger and the ring finger specifically.
- Some have trouble moving the elbow altogether.
It is also somewhat common for a person to experience pain that radiates down the arm and into the wrist. This can make it hard to know that it is, in fact, MET and not a wrist related problem. However, most people with the condition, even mild forms, struggle with completing common tasks such as opening a door or shaking a person’s hand.
Dr. Brian Cable MD provides some insight into this occurring in tennis players, stating, “In tennis players, the pain may be seen in the late cocking phase of the serve motion. It may also be seen during the early acceleration phase of the serve as well as the forehand at the wrist snaps forward.”
#3: How Is It Diagnosed?
Another core component of this process of understanding MET is understanding that diagnosing it can be difficult in some situations. It is generally not beneficial to use advanced imaging to diagnose this condition. It may be hard to pinpoint on those types of testing. The use of an x-ray may be helpful. From there, it is critical to look at the type of pain the person is in, where the pain is located, as well as the overall types of movements common, such as whether or not the person plays tennis or golf or engages in other activities that could lead to overuse of the elbow tendons.
#4: How is This Condition Treated?
Treatment of medial elbow tendinopathy can be complex in that it takes time and may have some limitations. First, it is typically not beneficial to use cortisone shots, as this can commonly provide nothing more than pain relief. This only provides for a short-term solution rather than long term recovery.
Treatment needs to focus on removing the excessive loads, correcting any technique faults, and treating the tendon with heavy load-based exercises.
In many situations, the treatment for this condition takes time for the recovery of the tendon. However, a core problem some have is going back to the same types of activities that can bring the condition on, such as poor form during game play. Then, it becomes essential that a person works to reduce the underlying cause of the problem as a first step.
In those who do not see significant improvement in six months, pursuing more aggressive treatment options may be necessary. That may include the use of surgical procedures to help correct the underlying concern.
#5: How Can It Be Prevented?
Whether after the condition improves or to prevent it from the start, there are several things that people can do to avoid the risk of this condition occurring. Tennis and golfer’s elbow may be best treated by reducing the risk of overuse. That may involve:
- Stretching the tendon properly before any consistent use, such as prior to golfing or playing tennis
- Practice the proper form during movements as this can help to reduce the stress on the elbow
- Build arm strength to help prevent the onset of this condition
- Provide time for the elbow to get some rest in between uses
For some people, it becomes necessary to put their tennis or golf career on hold while their elbow heals and recovers. For others, it may be necessary to minimize any type of movement of the elbow until more advanced care can be obtained to give it time to heal.