Also known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is a painful inflammation of the elbow joint that results from repetitive stress or overuse. The pain is often felt on the outside (lateral side) of the elbow but may radiate down the back of a person’s forearm. An individual is likely to feel pain when he/she straightens or fully extends the arm.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
- Tennis elbow is typically brought on by overusing your forearm during demanding or repetitive activity
- It could also happen if you bump or knock your elbow
- If your forearm muscles aren’t used to performing a given task, like gardening or decorating, you could develop tennis elbow
- Tiny rips and inflammation may form close to the bony lump (lateral epicondyle) on the outside of your elbow if the forearm muscles are overworked.
Risk Factors of Tennis Elbow
- The use of hand tools repeatedly such as screwdriver or scissors
- Tasks that require bending the elbow repeatedly
- Activities that involve the use of tools while decorating, plumbing, or bricklaying
- Playing racquet sports or sports that involve throwing
- Activities that involve fine repetitive hand and wrist movements such as typing
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
- A wake-up grip
- Pain that radiates from the outside of the elbow to the wrist and forearm
- Increased discomfort when squeezing or shaking hands
- Pain when using tools, lifting objects, or opening jars
Diagnosis of Tennis Elbow
The condition is often diagnosed during a physical exam. The doctor will inquire about your job, whether you play any sports, and how your symptoms developed. The doctor will then perform some simple tests to help make a definitive diagnosis. To determine whether there is any pain, your doctor may apply pressure to the area where the tendon joins the bone.
To rule out other conditions that can cause arm discomfort, your doctor may also request imaging tests such as an X-ray or an MRI scan.
Treatment of Tennis Elbow
Most patients with tennis elbow cases can be treated without surgery. The doctor will prescribe one or more of the following treatments:
- Rest: Resting your arm is the first step in your recovery. The doctor may issue a brace to help immobilize the affected muscles.
- Ice: Over-the-elbow application of ice packs can assist to ease pain and reduce swelling.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist will use a variety of exercises to strengthen the muscles of your forearm and promote healing.
- Ultrasound therapy: During this treatment, an ultrasound probe is placed over the most painful area on your arm. For a predetermined amount of time, the probe sends high-frequency sound waves into the tissues.
- Shock wave therapy: This experimental procedure uses sound waves to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanism near the elbow.
If symptoms don’t go away after a year of treatment, surgery can be recommended. You and your doctor can determine whether surgery is necessary to treat your condition.
Either a bigger incision is made directly over the elbow to repair it, or the surgery is performed arthroscopically.