Even people who don't play tennis can develop tennis elbow. In fact, anyone who repetitively performs certain arm motions can experience tennis elbow symptoms, including painters, cooks, and carpenters, among others. If you or someone you love is exploring tennis elbow treatment options, Rothman Institute is here to help you answer some of the most difficult and frequently asked questions about this condition.
What Is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is one of the most common elbow injuries. It is an overuse and muscle strain injury, caused by repeated contraction of the forearm muscles used to move the hand and wrist. The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily in the elbow, although pain can also spread into the forearm and wrist.
What Are The Risk Factors For Tennis Elbow?
Because it is an overuse and muscle strain injury, some known risk factors for tennis elbow include:
- Age - While people of all ages can develop tennis elbow, it is most common in adults ages 30 to 50.
- Sports - Any racket sports increase your risk of tennis elbow, especially if your stroke technique is poor or underdeveloped.
- Occupation - Jobs that involve repetitive motions of the wrist and arm are more likely to lead to tennis elbow.
What Are The Most Common Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow?
Most tennis elbow patients suffer from:
- Pain radiating from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist
- Weakness in the elbow, forearm, and/or wrist
- Difficulty with some motor skills such as shaking hands, holding a glass or mug, turning doorknobs, etc.
What Are My Tennis Elbow Treatment Options?
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should consult with your doctor before beginning any course of treatment. After you receive your diagnosis, there are many non-surgical and self-care tennis elbow treatment options, such as:
- Rest - Reduce or avoid activities that aggravate your elbow pain until symptoms abate.
- Ice - Apply ice or a cold pack for 15 minutes at a time, three to four times per day.
- Technique - Ensure that you are employing proper technique for your activities, especially avoiding repetitive wrist motions.
- Exercises - Your doctor or a physical therapist may suggest exercises to strengthen and improve your muscles.
- Braces - Your doctor may also suggest a wrist or forearm brace to reduce stress on the injured tissue.
- Pain Relievers - Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce pain and inflammation as you heal.
What If Non-Surgical Treatment Doesn't Work For Me?
Many patients are able to reduce or eliminate their symptoms through these methods of self-care tennis elbow treatment. If your symptoms don't improve after six to twelve months of conservative therapy, you may be a candidate for surgery. These types of procedures can remove damaged tissue through a large incision or through several small incisions. The surgical procedure would then be followed up with rehabilitation and physical therapy to ensure the best possible recovery.
The first course of action for anyone suffering chronic pain should be consulting with your doctor. For more specialized help, see an elbow expert at Rothman Institute. Our physicians are some of the most experienced specialists for tennis elbow treatment, and they can offer comprehensive and caring treatment for you.