Lateral epicondylosis: A literature review to link pathology and tendon function to tissue-level treatment and ergonomic interventions

Caroline W. Stegink-Jansen, Julia G. Bynum, Alexandra L. Lambropoulos, Rita M. Patterson, April C. Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Common treatments for lateral epicondylosis (LE) focus on tissue healing. Ergonomic advice is suggested broadly, but recommendations based on biomechanical motion parameters associated with functional activities are rarely made. This review analyzes the role of body functions and activities in LE and integrates the findings to suggest motion parameters applicable to education and interventions relevant to activities and life roles for patients. Purpose: This study examines LE pathology, tendon and muscle biomechanics, and population exposure outlining potentially hazardous activities and integrates those to provide motion parameters for ergonomic interventions to treat or prevent LE. A disease model is discussed to align treatment approaches to the stage of LE tendinopathy. Study Design: Integrative review Methods: We conducted in-depth searches using PubMed, Medline, and government websites. All levels of evidence were included, and the framework for behavioral research from the National Institutes of Health was used to synthesize ergonomic research. Results: The review broadened the diagnosis of LE from a tendon ailment to one affecting the enthesis of the capitellum. It reinforced the continuum of severity to encompass degeneration as well as regeneration. Systematic reviews confirmed the availability of evidence for tissue-based treatments, but evidence of well-defined harm reducing occupational interventions was scattered amongst evidence levels. Integration of biomechanical studies and population information gave insight into types of potentially hazardous activities and provided a theoretical basis for limiting hazardous exposures to wrist extensor tendons by reducing force, compression, and shearing during functional activities. Conclusions: These findings may broaden the first treatment approach from a passive, watchful waiting into an active exploration and reduction of at-risk activities and motions. Including the findings into education modules may provide patients with the knowledge to lastingly reduce potentially hazardous motions during their daily activities, and researchers to define parameters of ergonomic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-297
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Hand Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • Ergonomics
  • Lateral epicondylosis
  • Occupation, Activities, Wrist extensors, Pathology, Biomechanics, Treatment
  • Patient education
  • Tennis elbow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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