FAQs About Tennis Elbow

FAQs About Tennis Elbow

David L. Rubenstein, M.D. July 21st, 2015

Tennis elbow, a condition also called lateral epicondylitis, is one of the most common elbow injuries in the world of sports. This painful condition typically occurs when the tendons in an athlete's elbow are overworked, usually through repetitive movement of the wrist and arm. Although the exact causes of this condition are as yet unknown, it is thought to be due to tiny tears of the tendons that attach the muscles of the forearm to the arm bone at the elbow joint. However, despite the uncertainties still surrounding this common conditions, the experts at Rothman Institute still have answers to many of your frequently asked questions. 

Can Non-Tennis Players Get Tennis Elbow?
If you or someone you love have the symptoms of this condition but are not a tennis player, that is not necessarily a reason to dismiss the possibility of tennis elbow. The condition gets its name because the muscle group involved, the wrist extensors, are at work during the common tennis motions of cocking the wrist back and stabilizing it while gripping a racquet. However, other sports or even jobs which require repetitive motions in the wrist and arm may lead to this condition. Common careers affected by this condition include plumbers, painters, carpenters, and butchers.
 
What Are The Symptoms of Lateral Epicondylitis? 
There are specific areas and instances of pain which are most commonly associated with tennis elbow. The pain will often radiate from the outside of the elbow, into the forearm and wrist. The pain and weakness resulting from this condition may make it difficult to shake hands, turn a doorknob, or even hold a full cup of coffee. If you continue to experience pain and tenderness matching this condition, and it is not resolved with rest or ice, it may be time to contact a doctor. 
 
How Is It Diagnosed? 
When you visit your doctor, she or he will typically begin with a physical exam, asking you to move your arm and wrist in various ways. Your doctor will also ask questions about your medical and activity history. In many cases, this combination is enough to offer a diagnosis of tennis elbow. However, in certain cases, an X-ray may be used to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. 
 
How Is This Condition Often Treated? 
For over 90% of patients, non-operative treatment is successful to address the pain and weakness of tennis elbow. These options typically include a combination of the following: 
  • Lifestyle modification (including technique adjustments and rest)

  • Changing Stroke Mechanics and Racquet (in cases of regular tennis players)

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications (these can be used to control pain and inflammation)

  • Cortisone Injections (these can reduce pain in the case that more conservative methods fail)
  • Elbow Braces (these can help to reduce the use of the injured muscles during healing)

  • Exercise (strengthening the related muscles can help to prevent re-injury)

In most cases, some combination of the above treatment options, guided by a sports medicine physician, can be effective to treat tennis elbow. 
 
In very rare cases, however, a surgical treatment approach may be necessary. Lateral epicondylitis surgery involves the removal of the damaged tendon and repair of the remaining tendon to the bone. This surgical procedure is usually successful, although it is rarely needed. 
 
Where Can I Go For The Latest Tennis Elbow Treatments? 
If you or someone you love is suffering from this condition, turn to the elbow specialists and sports medicine physicians at Rothman Institute today. Our team of orthopaedic experts have the experience, as well as the access to the latest techniques and technology, to provide you with the highest level of care. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact us today at 1.800.321.9999.

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