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What is lateral epicondylitis?

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Quick Answer

Lateral epicondylitis is a swelling of the tendons in the elbow and arm, defines WebMD. Lateral epicondylitis is caused by repetitive gripping activities that use the thumb and first two fingers. The common name for lateral epicondylitis is tennis elbow.

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Full Answer

Lateral epicondylitis is most common in individuals around the age of 40, states WebMD. The condition appears after years of repetitive actions that eventually cause small tears in muscles and tendons. Sports such as tennis, racquetball, fencing, squash and weight lifting cause lateral epicondylitis, along with activities such as typing, painting, knitting, carpentry or raking. Pain and tenderness of the outside elbow are the main symptoms of lateral epicondylitis, and pain may also travel to the upper or lower arm. The pain typically occurs when an individual lifts something, opens a door, grips an object or raises a hand.

Lateral epicondylitis is diagnosed with a series of tests that include the flexing of the wrist, arm and elbow along with imaging tests such as an MRI or X-ray, explains WebMD. Lateral epicondylitis typically heals on its own. Additional actions such as icing the elbow, using an elbow strap and exercising the elbow accelerate healing, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid or painkiller injections used on a short-term basis speed healing. Severe cases of lateral epicondylitis may require surgery.

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