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5 Symptoms of Elbow Tendonitis

Elbow tendonitis is a common cause of elbow pain — yet it’s one we don’t hear about very often. That’s probably because it’s more typically called tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, among other common names. 

Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are types of elbow tendonitis, but each affects a different tendon and a different part of your elbow. 

At Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, David Dickerson, MD, and his team offer advanced treatment options for elbow tendonitis, including both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. 

Knowing the symptoms of elbow tendonitis is the first step toward getting the most appropriate care. Here’s what to know about this common cause of elbow pain.

Elbow anatomy 101

Your elbow contains strong tendons that connect the muscles in your forearm to the bones of the joint. The tendons help your arm bend, rotate, lift, and grasp. Elbow tendonitis develops when one of the tendons in your elbow becomes irritated and inflamed. 

The tendons connect to your elbows at the bony prominences located on the inside and outside of your joint. These prominences are called epicondyles. Tennis elbow involves the tendon that attaches to the lateral (or outer) epicondyle, while golfer’s elbow affects the tendon on the medial side of your elbow. 

Tendon inflammation is often accompanied by tiny tears in the tendon (and sometimes muscle) tissue, usually as a result of being stretched and stressed. Inflammation causes tissue swelling, which can interfere with normal movement and make your symptoms worse.

Obviously, tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow aren’t restricted to people who play these sports. Instead, they gained their nicknames because the movements involved in tennis and golf can cause tendon irritation and inflammation in the outer or inner part of your elbow joint. 

You can develop elbow tendonitis from other types of sports and from everyday activities that use your elbows and forearms, like:

Pretty much any activity that puts a lot of stress and strain on your lower arms — especially repetitive stress and strain — can lead to elbow tendonitis. In fact, data show tennis elbow alone affects up to 3% of all people, occurring most commonly between the ages of 30 and 50 years.

Elbow tendonitis: 5 symptoms

Even though they have different names, both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow can cause similar symptoms, including these five:

All of these symptoms can be attributed both to the inflammation around the tendon and to the muscle movements that put stress on the tendon, triggering symptoms.

Mild elbow tendonitis often resolves on its own without invasive treatments, typically with rest, application of ice, and bracing or splinting. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections can help relieve both swelling and pain. 

The key to quick relief (and to avoid more invasive treatment options) is to seek medical care as quickly as possible — ideally at the first sign of symptoms.

Relieve your painful symptoms

Even though many elbow tendonitis problems resolve without invasive interventions, it’s still very important to have your elbow symptoms evaluated so other problems (like fractures) can be ruled out.

Our team tailors your treatment to relieve symptoms and restore normal elbow health and function.

If you’re having elbow symptoms, don’t put off treatment. Call our office closest to you — in Tom’s River, Shrewsbury, or Wall Township, New Jersey — or contact us here on our website to schedule a visit today. 

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