“Tennis elbow” is a common term for a condition caused by overuse of arm, forearm, and hand muscles that results in elbow pain. You don’t have to play tennis to get this, but the term came into use because it can be a significant problem for some tennis players.
Tennis elbow is caused by either abrupt or subtle injury of the muscle and tendon area around the outside of the elbow. Tennis elbow specifically involves the area where the muscles and tendons of the forearm attach to the outside bony area (called the lateral epicondyle) of the elbow. Other term is “lateral epicondylitis”. Another common term, “golfer’s elbow,” refers to the same
process occurring on the inside of the elbow — what your doctor may call medial epicondylitis. Overuse injury can also affect the back or posterior part of the elbow as well.
Although tennis elbow commonly affects tennis players, it also affects other athletes and people who participate in leisure or work activities that require repetitive arm, elbow, wrist, and hand movement, especially while tightly gripping something. Examples include golfers, baseball players, bowlers, gardeners or landscapers, house or office cleaners (because of vacuuming, sweeping, and scrubbing), carpenters, mechanics, and assembly-line workers
Symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Pain slowly increasing around the outside of the elbow. Less often, pain may develop suddenly.
- Pain is worse when shaking hands or squeezing objects.
- Pain is made worse by stabilizing or moving the wrist with force. Examples include lifting, using tools, opening jars, or even handling simple utensils.
Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow is usually diagnosed by the description of pain you provide to your doctor and certain findings from physical. Your doctor may order X-rays. If your symptoms are severe or unusual, your doctor also may order a computed tomography or magnetic
resonance imaging scan
Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow usually is successfully treated by physical therapy (of which radial shock wave therapy are especially useful), forearm bracing to rest the tendons, topical anti- inflammatory gels, topical cortisone gels, steroid injections. Sometimes you may be offered injection of special agents that promote healing, taken from your own blood. In such case, you will be provided with detailed information about this novel treatment modality. Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow only rarely require surgery.
To reduce the pain and inflammation of tennis elbow, try:
- Rest and avoid any activity that causes pain to the sore elbow.
- Apply ice to the affected area.
- Use topical medications, such ss Voltaren gel.
- Wear a specifically designed brace.
Overall, 90% to 95% of people with tennis elbow will improve and recover with the treatment plan described. However, about 5% of people will not get better with conservative treatment and will need surgery to repair the injured muscle-tendon unit around the elbow. For 80% to 90% of people who have surgery, it results in pain relief and return of strength.
This step begins a couple of weeks after the pain of tennis elbow has been reduced or eliminated. It involves specific physical-therapy exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles and tendons around the injured elbow. Any activity that aggravates the pain must be avoided.
To help lessen the continued stress and abuse on tennis elbow:
- Use the proper equipment and technique in sports and on the job.
- Use of a counter-force brace, an elastic band that wraps around the forearm just below the injured elbow (tendon) may help to relieve pain in some people.
- Avoid tight gripping, overuse of the wrist.
- Pay attention to the movements that cause pain.