The most common cause of CLE is over use. In the workplace, this could be associated with typing, manual handling, use of small tools. In the sporting population, it is commonly seen in racquet sports (thus the term Tennis Elbow). However there are reports of a growing number of cases related to the increasing use of hand held devices and smartphones, prompting the term “Cellphone or iPhone Elbow” (Ergow, 2009).
The causes are largely the same, that being inflammation in the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis tendon, caused by the constant contraction required to hold the device. However there are also reports of De Quervains Tenosynovitis caused by repeated scrolling and typing on a small keypad!
What does the evidence say about the management of iPhone Elbow?
In a recent article in Sports Physio, APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist Dr Leanne Bisset looked at the evidence behind a range of treatment for CLE. There are a lot of different ways to treat tennis elbow. The problem is there is little high-level evidence to support the use of many of these treatment techniques in the long term. For short-term relief, corticosteroid injection has been shown to be superior to physiotherapy. However, in the long-term (3-12 months) it was shown to have a worse outcome when compared to physiotherapy intervention.
The current best practice evidence suggests that a program of general upper limb conditioning, mobilization with movement, taping, and a concentric/eccentric exercise program produce superior results than corticosteroid injection or a wait-and-see approach (Mack 2011).
Bisset, L (2011): Lateral Epicondylalgia: Evidence for different treatments. Sports Physio, (1)
Mack, J (2011): Does supinators play a role in lateral elbow tendinopathy? Sports Physio, (1)
http://www.informedgeek.com/tag/smartphones/, accessed 28-07-2011