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What Is Cozen's Test?

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins

Tennis elbow, a condition medically known as lateral epicondylosis, can strike anyone whose arm is overworked, whether tennis or some other activity that caused the strain. To determine if a patient has developed tennis elbow, doctors regularly use the Cozen's test. It involves the injured being seated and extending the arm directly forward, forearm down, while the examiner gently holds the wrist downward. As the patient presses upward against the force applied on the hand, the doctor presses a finger into the outside of the elbow to see how much pain results.

A Cozen's test can be performed in less than 30 seconds to verify lateral epicondylosis. While seated, the patient will fully extend the arm palm-down as the doctor presses down on the hand and palpates the muslces and tendons around the elbow. During these palpations the patient will be asked to press upward against the doctor's hand. The wrist may also be manipulated upward and from side to side to determine if the tennis elbow is triggered by other types of wrist movements. Some patients will not feel pain unless the hand is flexed upward from this position.

Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

If the Cozen's test yields pain for the patient, a range of treatment options could be recommended to facilitate healing. A mandatory rest period is common, as are anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. If the pain is intense or if competition is eminent, a doctor also may inject a corticosteroid into the elbow, which also has proven effective for lessening pain and promoting healing of the joint. Physical therapy and various stretches also promote healing.

A Cozen's test is performed whenever pain is experienced at the elbow, whether the patient plays tennis or not. The majority of patients who develop this condition do not even play tennis, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Women and men are affected equally; however, the condition is most common at 40 years or older.

If no obvious breakage has occurred, the Cozen's test might not be needed to determine if tennis elbow has occurred. The symptoms are fairly straightforward, involving an often-sharp pain in the elbow that may radiate toward the wrist, particularly during movement. The elbow also will be tender when palpated, or touched, and the muscles of the forearm may be extraordinarily tight. The condition leads to an inability to use the arm with a full range of motion and even nerve damage that causes a numb and tingly feeling.

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      Doctor taking notes