The epicondyle is a small bony relief located just above theelbow joint. Sometimes it happens that the tendons of the forearm muscles that attach to it are affected. Pain then appears in the elbow: this is called a épicondylite ou “tennis elbow”. This is a musculoskeletal disorder (TMS) of the upper limb.
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The pain can have different origins: micro-tears of the tendons, lesions at the level of their insertion on the bone … It often occurs after a intensive or repeated use arm, forearm and hand. However, it may be linked to a épitrochléite, a comparable condition which affects this time the epitrochlea, on the inside of the arm.
What are the symptoms of epicondylitis?
Epicondylitis can come on suddenly or gradually, but usually occurs on the dominant arm. It results in an elbow tender to the touch, then a pain which appears. This then extends to the outer surface of the elbow and forearm, so that it can occur during certain movements, when the arm or the wrist bend and unfold, when grasping an object, rotating the hand …
What are the causes and factors of epicondylitis?
In France, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent 87% of occupational diseases, according to the site ofAmeli. Elbow involvement concerns 19% of upper limb MSD cases. Professional activity is therefore the main risk factor epicondylitis, especially when it involves the tightening of a handle, frequent rotation of the forearm coupled with repeated flexion of the wrist, striking of the hand …
But other activities and factors can be at the origin:
- The repetition of harmful acts;
- Lack of rest or recovery;
- Work in force and in the cold;
- Exposure to vibrations;
- The playing tennis, hence the name “tennis elbow”;
- Poor working conditions;
- Tobacco consumption;
- Certain diseases (diabetes, poor blood circulation) which contribute to the weakening of the tendons.
How to treat epicondylitis?
Epicondylitis can be particularly painful and thus have a significant impact on daily and professional life. However, it does not present any particular risk and heals spontaneously over the long term, between 9 and 24 months. However, early treatment can speed up this healing. First of all, it is necessary to stop responsible activity of the pathology, in order to rest the tendons concerned.
Thus, when epicondylitis is recognized as an occupational disease, a work stopping 4 weeks for a sedentary profession – up to 11 weeks in the event of significant stress on the arm – is generally sufficient. But depending on the case, other complementary solutions can be proposed:
- The prescription of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) and analgesics (paracetamol), to calm the pain;
- Of corticosteroid infiltrations in the painful area;
- Of muscle exercises with a physiotherapist;
- The wearing a splint adapted: this “anti-epicondylitis” bracelet is placed above the elbow, allowing the muscle to rest. If its use can be daily, the elbow pad should be removed regularly to avoid venous compression.
Having an operation for epicondylitis
In the event of drug failure or chronic epicondylitis lasting more than a year, a surgical intervention can be considered. Different methods can be used, aiming to lengthen the tendon or modify its insertion in the epicondyle. The duration of the sick leave will then depend on the associated injuries, the occurrence or not of complications, the possibilities of adaptation, etc.
How to prevent epicondylitis?
Certain gestures at work as in everyday life allowavoid any aggravation or recurrence affection:
- Drink water ;
- Warm up before any work requiring strength;
- Keep the elbow bent during the effort;
- Avoid jerky movements;
- Alternate repetitive tasks with other work;
- Place palms up when carrying objects;
- Take breaks;
- Adapt and organize his position as best as possible with the occupational physician.