Q: My doctor says my elbow pain is due to tennis elbow. But I don’t play tennis. Could you explain how this has come about and what I can do about it?
A: “Tennis elbow” is a common term for a condition doctors call lateral epicondylitis. It’s caused by inflammation of the tendon that connects the extensor muscles of the wrist to the outside of the elbow.
Probably fewer than 10 percent of people get this by playing tennis. The usual causes are recreational activities such as gardening, job-related lifting, using a screwdriver or wrist overuse.
The medial epicondyle can also get inflamed. In this condition, called medial epicondylitis, the affected tendons connect the flexor muscles of the wrist to the inside of the elbow. It’s commonly called “golfer’s elbow” or “pitchers elbow.” Tightening and twisting the wrist from activities such as golfing or throwing a baseball can cause it.
Most people with medial or lateral epicondylitis feel pain when their doctor applies direct pressure to the inflamed area. He or she might ask you to push your wrist against resistance, which could also cause pain. You might also feel pain with handshaking, lifting a briefcase or heavy pot or similar activities.
The treatment is similar for both conditions.