Tenosynovitis of the elbow:
Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the lining of the sheath that surrounds a tendon (the cord that joins muscle to bone). This causes difficulty or pain when moving the joint, joint swelling as well as palpable pain in and around the joint.
Tenosynovitis of the elbow is usually categorized into a few different more common names:
tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
Nursemaid's elbow (dislocation of the radial bone in the elbow)
Bursitis (inflammation of the Bursa)
If tenosynovitis is not treated, the tendon may become permanently restricted or it may tear (rupture). If you are experiencing very sharp or unbearable pain or suspect a tear (rupture) please schedule an appointment with your primary health care provider or an Orthopedist, attempting to rehabilitate a torn tendon will only cause further pain & injury.
The most common form of both of these above mentioned injuries is over-use. Both above forms of tenosynovitis of the elbow are common in weight lifters because we can’t help but over-use our elbows, they are necessary for most upper body movements. Also, more so in weight lifters, they can and often do occur together (medial & lateral) causing the entire elbow joint to hurt & be inflamed.
OK, time to talk rehab, first and foremost with any acute or injury of inflammation, I try to always teach people to remember the acronym RICE (R=rest. I=ice, C=compression, E=elevation) Notice the number one on the list is rest, you can’t rehab an injury if you continue to cause trauma, this is not a work through the pain kind of thing, it will not just go away. How long you need to rest it depends on you and your body, everyone is different. There are no exercises that will help this heal, it is an over-use injury, that needs time to heal... RICE. In addition, after approximately 48-72hrs of initial onset of the injury, I like to put my patients through contrast baths: 15mins of heat followed by 15 mins of ice. Always do the heat first and follow with ice. The heat speeds up the blood flow, vasodiolation of the blood vessels allowing more oxygen and healing nutrients to the site, but must be followed by ice, because if allowed to pool, it can worsen the inflammation process. Think of this as a pump, heat allows the good stuff in, then you pump it back out so it does not stay causing further swelling & inflammation.
Now, once it is no longer acute and inflamed, strengthening it is a different story. Any exercise that strengthens the muscles of the forearm will also strengthen the tendons which attach them to the elbow joint (wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, reverse curls, hammer curls,hand grippers, squeezing a tennis ball, etc). I would also include some warm up wrist rotations with a 3 or 5lb dumbbell, nothing heavy, this is just to loosen them up and warm them up, nothing more. I also recommend some sort of pre-workout heat, weather it be a hot pack or some type of ointment (ie. biofreeze, icy-hot, etc.) and also, ice it down after any upper body workout that stresses the elbow joint.
I hope this information helps, the above websites are very good, very informative with more detail than I have in this thread, also they have some pretty good pictures, so you can actually visualize where & why you are experiencing pain in your elbow as well as whether it is (lateral or medial) epicondylitis or both.