Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
At the Hand Center of Louisiana, we often treat patients with tennis elbow, a painful condition in the elbow often stemming from repetitive, overuse, but also traumatic injuries such as a fall or car accident. Understanding this injury, including its causes, symptoms, and resulting treatments, can help you decide if you need to see an orthopaedic surgeon for evaluation.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, is a painful condition involving the tendons that attach to the bone on the outside (lateral) part of the elbow. Tendons anchor the muscle to bone. The muscle involved in this condition, the extensor carpi radialis brevis, helps to extend and stabilize the wrist. With lateral epicondylitis, there is degeneration of the tendon’s attachment, weakening the anchor site and placing greater stress on the area. This can then lead to pain associated with activities in which this muscle is active, such as lifting, gripping, and/or grasping. Sports such as tennis are commonly associated with this, but the problem can occur with many different types of activities, athletic and otherwise.
What Causes Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?
The cause can be both non-work and work related. An activity that places stress on the tendon attachments, through stress on the extensor muscle-tendon unit, increases the strain on the tendon. These stresses can be from holding too large a racquet grip or from “repetitive” gripping and grasping activities, i.e. meat-cutting, plumbing, painting, weaving, etc.
A direct blow to the elbow may result in swelling of the tendon that can lead to degeneration. A sudden extreme action, force, or activity could also injure the tendon.
Who Gets Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)?
The most common age group that this condition affects is between 30 to 50 years old, but it may occur in younger and older age groups, and in both men and women.
Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Pain is the primary reason for patients to seek medical evaluation. Tennis elbow often results in the following characteristics:
- Elbow pain in the outside aspect of the elbow (lateral epicondyle)
- Tenderness at the site of the lateral epicondyle
- Elbow pain produced by gripping, lifting, or any activity that places stress on the tendon
- Elbow pain that travels down the forearm to the hand with activity
- Elbow pain
Tennis Elbow Diagnosis
You physician will evaluate tennis elbow through the following methods:
- Physical Exam
- Medical History
- Diagnostic procedures such as X-rays
Based on this evaluation, your hand surgeon may recommend one or more treatment options.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Tennis Elbow
Initially, the activity causing the condition should be limited. Limiting the aggravating activity, not total rest, is recommended. Modifying grips or techniques, such as use of a different size racket and/or use of 2-handed backhands in tennis, may relieve the problem.
Your hand surgeon may recommend the use of anti-inflammatory medications to help alleviate the pain.
A tennis elbow brace, a band worn over the muscle of the forearm, just below the elbow, can reduce the tension on the tendon and allow it to heal.
Therapy may be helpful, providing stretching and/or strengthening exercises. Modalities such as ultrasound or heat treatments may be helpful.
A steroid is a strong anti-inflammatory medication that can be injected into the area. No more than (3) injections should be given.
A new type of treatment, available in the office setting, has shown some success in 50-60% of patients. This is a shock wave delivered to the affected area around the elbow, which can be used as a last resort prior to the consideration of surgery.
Tennis Elbow Release Surgery
What is tennis elbow surgery and what does it entail? Surgery for tennis elbow involves removing the diseased, degenerated tendon tissue. Two surgical approaches are available; traditional open surgery (incision), and arthroscopy—a procedure performed with instruments inserted into the joint through small incisions. Both options are performed in the outpatient setting.
When is Surgery Necessary for Tennis Elbow?
Does tennis elbow require surgery? Surgery for tennis elbow is only considered when the pain is incapacitating and has not responded to conservative care, and symptoms have lasted more than six months.
Elbow Surgery Recovery
Recovery from tennis below surgery includes physical therapy to regain motion of the arm. This includes stretching and strengthening exercises, which are necessary in order to return to prior activities. You will be able to return to daily activities 2 to 6 weeks after your procedure. Recovery can be expected to take 4-6 months, with pain subsiding by this timeframe.
Relieve Your Tennis Elbow – Tennis Elbow Treatment, Tennis Elbow Surgery, New Orleans
Tennis elbow is a common condition that is often caused by repetitive activities such as gripping or grasping, or trauma from a direct blow or sudden force of movement. The condition can be treated through non-surgical and surgical interventions. If you believe you have tennis elbow and would like to schedule a consultation, we encourage you to contact us using the form below. Our friendly staff will help you book an appointment with one of our experienced physicians to provide the timely care you need.