Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Acupuncture Treats Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Lateral Epicondylitis, or what is commonly known as tennis elbow, is an injury brought about by overuse.  Most people that have tennis elbow don’t even play tennis. Lateral epicondylitis presents itself as a condition with an inflammation of the extensor tendon connected to the lateral (outside) epicondyle of the elbow.Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Though most cases of tennis elbow are self-limiting and benign in nature, it is recommended that it is treated to prevent the development of chronic pain.  Acupuncture is a proven, safe, non-invasive and natural treatment for most elbow injuries including lateral epicondylitis. The treatment will make use of the body’s own mechanisms to foster relief and rehabilitation in the affected area.

What are the symptoms and causes of Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?

Initials signs of  tennis elbow are perceived pain and tenderness on the outer part of the elbow, specifically on the area over the lateral epicondyle. This pain can further manifest in activities that involve gripping, lifting heavy items or movements of the wrist, like shaking hands or opening door knobs.

Tennis elbow is idiopathic in nature, with no specific root cause of its occurrence. The condition usually develops over time due to the elbow’s exposure to repetitive motions explaining its prevalence amongst those in middle age.  Chronic degenerative changes in the tendons that attaches the extensor carpi radialis brevis to the elbow have been observed in these cases.

How would a doctor diagnose and treat Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?

For a doctor to diagnose Tennis Elbow, a patient would need to undergo a variety of tests that involve the application of pressure on the affected area while the patient performs specific movement patterns with the elbow, wrist and fingers. Initial imaging requirements may involve getting an X-ray to rule out any fractures or arthritis.

If these techniques prove inconclusive, medical sonography or a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) might be required to further evaluate the area. This form of imaging can determine the existence of excess fluids or swelling in the affected area of the elbow, specifically the area around the forearm bones and the extensor carpi radialis brevis. An MRI can also help rule out a herniated disk or arthritis in the neck which creates similar symptoms to that of the lateral epicondylitis.

One more imaging test that could be commissioned is the electromyography (EMG). The main purpose of the EMG is to rule out nerve compression since the elbow is a pathway for a lot of nerves. The advent of nerve compression usually exhibits similar symptoms to that of Tennis elbow.

A doctor would recommend icing and resting the affected area since the elbow would usually heal on its own. An elbow strap might be needed to protect the area and prevent unnecessary movement that might retard the recuperation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed as a form of pain management though it should be taken only sporadically since it might actually delay the healing process.

Once the affected area has regained some level of functionality without the nagging discomfort, exercises can be performed for the reduction of muscle stiffness and for the improvement of flexibility in the area that experienced the limited range of movement. Physical therapy sessions will aid in strengthening and stretching the muscles in the affected area.

Bone marrow injections have also been seen as a novel treatment option for Tennis elbow. A concoction made of iliac bone marrow aspirate, which contains platelet-rich plasma and mononuclear cells is injected in the affected area. Patients in a study have exhibited an improvement of their condition over a 12-week period after the injection.

If a patient has developed a recalcitrant form of lateral epicondylitis over a period of 6 months, a doctor might recommend surgery. This invasive option would usually be floated if an examination reveals that a band of radio-capitellar capsular complex was impinging on the radial head and has subluxated into the radio-capitellar joint. This would entail the resection of the capsular fringe complex along with the undersurface debridement of the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis. Though improvement has been mostly recorded for patients that have gone under the knife for Tennis Elbow, invasive surgical options should be treated as last resort when dealing with lateral epicondylitis.

How would an acupuncturist diagnose and treat Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?

In order to diagnose Tennis elbow, the patient would need to undergo a physical examination that would isolate the condition since lateral epicondylitis exhibits signs and symptoms that are discrete. The elbow is extended to the fullest extent so a determination of tender spots can take place. To confirm our diagnosis, Cozen’s test will be performed since this procedure isolates the stress applied to the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle.

Acupuncture can aid in the treatment of lateral epicondylitis through the targeted stimulation of certain pressure points in the affected area.  Electrical stimulation may be performed in order to increase capillary circulation which is vital to heal the affected tissue.   The micro-trauma of the needles releases  anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce swelling, immediately improving the area’s range in motion. Additionally, endorphins are released to block pain receptors to free you of any discomfort since acupuncture is an effective pain management option.

Due to the self-limiting nature of lateral epicondylitis, we recommend a combination of proven modalities to further help in recovery. Studies have shown that the combination of electro-acupuncture and bodywork modalities can lead to greater joint function, lower pain intensity and an overall better therapeutic effect when treating tennis elbow.

To make an appointment with me for treatment, please go to the Appointments page. If you have further questions, feel free to ask me through the Contact page.