Tennis Elbow is a medical condition in which the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender. The medical name for this condition is lateral epicondylitis. The first step in the proper treatment of tennis elbow is understanding the symptoms of the condition. Symptoms of tennis elbow include pain and tenderness near the bony bump at the outside of the elbow. Treatment of this injury usually requires rest, icing and compression as well as wearing an appropriately designed elbow brace. Both the symptoms and treatment of tennis elbow are actually very similar to those for golfers elbow. The main difference between the two types of injury is that tennis elbow is an injury to the tendons attached to the outer elbow while golfers elbow is an injury to the corresponding tendons on the inner elbow.
What Is Tennis Elbow?
It is an overuse injury involving damage to the forearm muscles and tendons from repetitive overuse. Any activity (typically playing tennis) that involves extensive use of the extensor muscles of the forearm can be a risk factor for the condition. These muscles play a key role in bending or straightening your forearm and in raising and lowering your wrist. So there is a wide range of activities that can potentially increase your risk of developing tennis elbow. For example, they can include swinging a hammer, holding a paintbrush or other everyday tasks.
Risk factors for this condition include:
Age – most people start to experience symptoms between ages 30 and 50;
Occupation – as mentioned above, ocupations that make extensive use of the forearm extensor muscles increase the risk of tennis elbow;
Extensive sporting activity, especially if these sports require use of the forearm muscles, can increase the risk of developing the condition.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
Typical symptoms are pain and tenderness at the outer part of the elbow. Pain may also result from gripping, lifting and wrist extension (e.g. turning a screwdriver) movements.
Although the pain normally starts at the bony area on the outer elbow, it frequently radiates to the hand and wrist after a while. After a while, your tennis elbow symptoms may include difficulty performing routine tasks like holding a cup of coffee, shaking hands or operating a computer mouse.
Your doctor may diagnose your tennis elbow by conducting a physical exam. He may also ask you to perform various movements with your arm and elbow. Additionally, he may request diagnostic exams such as X-Rays to confirm the diagnosis.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
The primary treatment for this injury is rest. The injured tendons must be given an opportunity to recover. In addition, the patient can treat the pain of the injury by icing the elbow frequently. Non prescription pain killing medications like aspirin can be used for additional pain control if the injury is severe.
Treatment can also include physical therapy exercises that include gently and gradually stretching your forearm muscles. For example, one of these exercises may be gradually raising your wrist and then lowering it.
A tennis elbow elbow brace (band or sleeve) that applies pressure to the injured tendon can reduce the vibrations travelling along the forearm muscles to the elbow tendons. This will allow the tendons to get the rest they need. It will also reduce pain and discomfort the patient is experiencing and help to heal his tennis elbow.
More Aggressive Treatments
If the above conservative treatment strategies do not work, your doctor may recommend plasma or botox injections for treatment of your tennis elbow.
Another tennis elbow treatment option is surgery to remove the damaged portions of the elbow tendons. Your doctor can perform this surgery by either making one large incision or by making several smaller ones.
Your doctor may also suggest ultrasonic tenetomy as a treatment for your tennis elbow. This procedure is normally performed by a specialist who will insert a needle into the injured portion of the elbow tendon. Ultrasonic technology is then used to make the needle vibrate at high speed and liquefy the damaged tissue. The specialist will then suction the liquefied tissue out of your elbow.
One thing to bear in mind with all of the invasive approaches mentioned above (injections or surgery) is that they remove a portion of your elbow tendon. As a result, rehabilitative exercises to restore elbow strength and function are a “must” after performance of these procedures.