Elbow Tendonitis

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Tendonitis refers to inflammation in the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to your upper arm bone at the elbow. Tendonitis often involves tiny tears to the tendon that occur through repetitive motion or stress.

There are two common types of elbow tendonitis. They are known as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, affects the common extensor tendon that attaches your forearm muscles to the outside of the elbow joint. These forearm muscles extend your wrist and fingers.

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, affects the common flexor that attaches your forearm muscles to the inside of the elbow joint. These forearm muscles flex your wrist forwards. Both conditions can cause elbow pain.

If you are experiencing elbow pain and want to speak to an orthopedic doctor, schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today. Our orthopedic team of experts in elbow joint pain looks forward to helping you with your discomfort. We have offices located in New Albany and St. Clairsville, Ohio for your convenience.

Causes of Elbow Tendonitis

Elbow tendonitis is caused by repetitive stress to the forearm muscles. Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive movements of your forearm muscles that straighten and raise your hand and wrist. Golfer’s elbow is caused by repetitive movements that cause wrist and hand flexion.

The following list contains some of the actions that can cause elbow tendonitis:

  • Playing tennis
  • Playing golf
  • Throwing sports
  • Weight training
  • Construction work
  • Repetitive computer mouse movements
  • Cutting up meat
  • Driving screws

What Are the Symptoms of Elbow Tendonitis?

The symptoms of both golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow develop gradually. Common symptoms include pain at the elbow and weakness in your hand and wrist.

Some of the symptoms of tennis elbow may include the following:

  • Pain on the outside of the elbow
  • Difficulties shaking hands or gripping an object
  • Difficulties holding a coffee mug
  • Difficulties turning a doorknob
  • Sudden pain in the elbow with the lifting of objects
  • Morning stiffness of the elbow

Golfer’s elbow affects different muscles in the forearm. You may experience the following symptoms with golfer’s elbow:

  • Pain on the inside of the elbow
  • Difficulties making a fist
  • Tingling or numbness in your ring or little finger
Dr. Julka checking a patient for thumb arthritis.

How to Diagnose Elbow Tendonitis

Your doctor will diagnose elbow tendonitis by performing a physical exam. During the exam, they may apply pressure to the affected area and ask you to perform specific movements with your elbow, wrist, and fingers.

In rare cases where your doctor may suspect other conditions, they will request imaging tests such as x-rays or MRI scans.

How to Treat Elbow Tendonitis

Elbow tendonitis tends to go away on its own with adequate rest. So the most effective way to treat elbow tendonitis is to stop doing the activities that caused the problem in the first place.

There are some other treatment options you may want to try to alleviate the pain and help you recover. The following list gives some suggestions on how to treat elbow tendonitis.

  • Ice: Ice can be applied for 10 minutes each hour to help relieve symptoms.
  • NSAIDs: Over-the-counter pain medications can be effective in treating elbow pain. NSAIDs will also help reduce the inflammation in your tendons.
  • Tennis elbow brace: An elbow support can be used to support elbow tendons. These can help if you need to continue the activity that is causing the tendonitis.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises can be prescribed through physical therapy to help strengthen and stretch the forearm muscles.
  • Stretching: Stretching your wrist forwards and backwards can stimulate the injured tendons, helping them to heal and increase mobility. Hold stretches for at least 30 seconds at a time.

Tennis elbow surgery is rarely needed. However, some may benefit from the realigning of the tendons, removal of bone spurs, or calcium buildup.

How Long is Recovery From Elbow Tendonitis?

With proper rest and treatment, you should be back to your normal, healthy lifestyle within 6-8 weeks. In more severe cases, recovery can take up to 6-9 months. 

After you have recovered, it is essential to make sure that you are taking the proper steps to avoid tendonitis from recurring in the future. The following suggestions may help you to avoid developing elbow tendonitis again.

  1. Try to take off the pressure from the elbow by using your shoulder and upper arm muscles
  2. Use a smaller range of motion in your movements
  3. Before exercising or starting a sports activity:
    • Be sure to stretch and warm-up
    • Start slow, gradually increasing your activity level
  4. Keep your wrist straight while working if possible
  5. Use a larger grip on tools or gloves to add padding and reduce shocks
  6. Avoid jerking movements with your wrist

If you are experiencing elbow pain and want to speak to an orthopedic doctor, schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today. Our offices are located in New Albany and St. Clairsville, OH. We can help you manage your pain and get on the road to recovery!

Medically reviewed by
AJ Julka, MD

JIS Orthopedics Can Diagnose & Treat Your Injury, And Help You Recover

If you are experiencing symptoms related to tendonitis, it is important to contact your doctor and address the condition before it worsens and prevents you from doing the things you love. Schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today! We’d love to help you get your body back on track! 


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