Epicondylitis is a chronic condition that causes the elbow to become inflamed. There are two types of epicondyle-related problems: lateral and medial. Lateral epicondylitis is often referred to as tennis elbow, while medial is golfer’s elbow.
The names, lateral and medial, indicate the specific areas of the elbow affected. The lateral epicondyle is a bony protrusion on the humerus. It connects with the joint on the outer, or lateral, edge. The medial epicondyle is a humerus protrusion on the medial, or inner, edge of the bone.
As the labels tennis and golfer's elbow suggest, epicondylitis is often a sports-related injury. It is what medical professionals call a cumulative overuse injury. In other words, the affected portion of the bone becomes irritated from overuse. A tennis player, for example, strains the tendons and muscles in the elbow playing the game. Over time, the strain causes tiny tears to form in the tissue. This leads to inflammation and pain.
People who play golf often tend to strain the connective tissue on the other side of the elbow joint. That is why that injury is called golfer’s elbow.
The treatment options are similar for both lateral and medial epicondylitis. Rest allows the injury to heal. In some cases, the doctor may recommend icing, as well. Physical therapy will provide instruction on proper form to avoid further injury and help strengthen the muscles around the elbow.
In acute cases, the doctor may immobilize the joint with a brace or recommend surgery to remove damaged tissue.
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