What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition affecting the tendons that connect your elbow to your forearm causing elbow pain. Lateral epicondylitis is also referred to as wrist extensor tendonitis.
Tennis elbow is a form of tendonitis, stemming from repetitive gripping motion in the forearm. Over time, the tendons, located at the end of your wrist-extending muscle, develop tiny tears and become inflamed. Among the extensor tendons affected by lateral epicondylitis, the extensor carpi radialis brevis is most commonly identified as the injured tendon. Another condition called golfer’s elbow, which affects the tendons on the inside of the elbow, is similar to tennis elbow.
The inflammation causes pain, especially when you try to grasp or lift objects. Without treatment, the elbow pain can become chronic, and keep you from working and doing the daily activities you love.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
As you might guess by its name, this overuse injury is common among tennis players, from many years of grasping and swinging a racquet at speed. But most people who suffer from this condition – about 95% – didn’t get it from racket sports. Here are a few of the activities that have brought patients into our office:
- Using scissors.
- Weight lifting.
- Playing string instruments.
- Painting with a roller or brush.
- Bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, or other manual labor.
Any repetitive activity that involves gripping, especially with the thumb and first two fingers, can cause tennis elbow.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Some signs and symptoms of tennis elbow include:
Poor grip strength is a common symptom of tennis elbow. Improving grip strength by building forearm muscles can help improve the ability to perform daily activities.
- Pain and tenderness in the elbow.
- Pain that radiates into the upper or forearm.
- Pain when lifting, grasping, or working with your hands.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Pain is the primary reason for patients to seek medical evaluation and treatment options for lateral epicondylitis. The pain is located on the outside of the elbow, over the bone region known as the lateral epicondyle. This area can become tender to the touch.
Over time, repetitive activities can strain forearm muscles and put stress on the tendons. This means that a well-developed treatment plan will both relieve the pain and tenderness and work towards a full limb recovery.
Most simple cases can be resolved with time away from the activity. In most cases of tennis elbow a combination of non-surgical treatments is effective. But in more severe cases, we would recommend a conservative treatment plan, following a thorough physical examination, involving one or more of the following:
- Physical therapy for tennis elbow. Stretches and strengthening exercises provided by a physical therapist.
- Anti-inflammatory medication.
- Tennis elbow braces.
- Icing and resting the elbow.
If we don’t see improvement with conservative treatment of tennis elbow then we may want to try more advanced techniques, such as:
- Topical analgesics.
- Cortisone injections for tennis elbow.
- Platelet-rich plasma injections.
- Tenotomy – the surgical cutting of the tendon to release it from the joint, and remove the damaged tissue.
Tennis elbow is a common and treatable condition. If you’re experiencing painful symptoms, call us today for a consultation. Let our award-winning doctor show you the latest in innovative treatment options for tennis elbow and other tendinopathies.