Tennis Elbow: Symptoms and Treatment

Joseph A. Abboud, MD September 26th, 2016

Rothman Orthopaedic Institute answers your questions about tennis elbow and its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options

You don’t have to be a tennis player – or even an athlete at all – in order to develop tennis elbow. Any repetitive arm motions over time can create tennis elbow symptoms. In many cases, tennis elbow can be treated with rest and self-care; however, some require a procedural solution. If you or someone you know is wondering what to expect from a procedure for tennis elbow, Rothman Orthopaedic Institute offers this guide for comprehensive diagnosis, treatment, and recovery care so you can get back to the activities that your activities of daily living in addition to the hobbies you enjoy.

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common elbow injury. It is caused by overuse and muscle strain, usually from repeated contraction of the forearm muscles while using your hand and wrist. The pain of tennis elbow occurs primarily in the elbow joint, although discomfort can also radiate into the forearm and wrist.

What Are The Symptoms Of Tennis Elbow?

  • Pain radiating from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and sometimes 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, carrying a briefcase, gripping a steering wheel etc.

  • Fatigue and/or depression in longtime sufferers

What Are The Tennis Elbow Treatment Options?

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should consult with your doctor. Before deciding on a procedure for tennis elbow, your physician will most likely try more conservative measures, such as:

  • Rest – Reduce or avoid activities that aggravate your elbow pain until symptoms subside.

  • Ice – Apply ice or a cold pack for 15 minutes at a time, three to four times per day.

  • Technique adjustments – 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 stretch and also strengthen and improve your muscles.

  • Braces – Your physician may also suggest a wrist or forearm brace to reduce stress on the injured tissue.

  • Pain relievers – Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain as you heal.

What Should I Expect From a Procedure For Tennis Elbow?

If your symptoms don’t improve after six to 12 months of conservative therapy, you may be a candidate for a procedure for tennis elbow. Surgery for tennis elbow may involve:

  • Removing inflamed tissue from the tendon.

  • Repairing (reattaching) tendon tears when possible

  • Cutting (releasing) the tendon

Surgery may be performed percutaneously, arthroscopically, or open depending on the recommendation of your orthopaedic specialist.

Following surgery and the necessary recovery time, your physician will recommend rehabilitation exercises. These exercises are integral to the healing and recovery process. Your doctor will advise you when to do gentle range-of-motion or gripping exercises after surgery. You will most likely have training and help at first, then you will be able to perform them regularly at home. Within three to six months, your pain should diminish and range of motion should return. However, you may need to keep doing exercises for up to one year.

Along with therapy, you should be able to return to daily activities within six weeks, and you should be able to play sports again within six months. You may need to use a brace until recovery is complete.

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 Orthopaedic Institute. Our physicians are some of the most experienced specialists for tennis elbow treatment, and they can offer comprehensive and caring treatment for you. Call Rothman Orthopaedic Institute today to schedule an appointment at 800.321.9999.

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